Kisho Kurokawa’s 1972 Nakagin Capsule Tower
And so this community grew organically, albeit as a substandard slum. Hak Nam echoed, in many ways, the 1960s rise of the Japanese Metabolists
in academia, who proposed 'plug-in' megastructures whose living cells could constantly grow and adapt over time. The work of Kisho Noriaki Kurokawa
is exactly that: the Nakagin capsule tower (1971) in Tokyo is very Futurist, a building with white blocks connected together, each with one circular window. It looks as if the capsules could be stacked onto one another forever. Kiyonori Kikutake's
ideas were even more extreme. His visions were more theoretical or poetic than Kurokowa's; he proposed prefabricated pods clipped on to vast helicoidal skyscrapers.
Within that movement, however, voices of dissent began to rise. "As long as the actual buildings got heavier, harder and more monstrous in scale, as long as architecture is taken as a means to power, the talk of greater flexibility is just fuss," Fumihiko Maki
, Masato Otaka and Gunter Nitschke had said in 1966. Maki himself was a member of the Metabolist group himself, but distanced himself more and more, abandoning the ideas of an organically growing building in favor of cubistic collages. He eventually moved to a aesthetic of fragmentation, but was more of a technologist, favoring metal trusswork and stainless steel superstructure and sheets. There is a certain Japan-ness still, but it is closer to Richard Rogers structuralism meets Tadao Ando’s
minimalism than anything having to do with Metabolism.
The essence of Metabolism was that built environments should not be static, but should be capable of undergoing constant change. Rather than thinking in terms of fixed form and function, these architects wanted to build system of parts that could continuously evolve. Maki was more interested in "group form," and the urban spaces between buildings: "One makes static compositions of individual buildings, and only subsequently can they become aspects of the grain of the City. The vital image of group form, on the other hand, derives from the dynamic equilibrium of generative elements and not a composition of stylizes and finished objects." Maki might be talking here about metabolism on an urban scale.
Rendering of Rødovre Skyscraper by MVRDV and ADEPT, Copenhagen
The original ideas of the Japanese Metabolists have been filtered down into a meaningless, contrived aesthetic. The April 2009 Architectural Record
reports that the Dutch firm MVRDV
is designing Rødovre
, a stepped tower, or "stacked neighborhood" of "pixels" which are mixed and matched to form a Lego-like mass. Unlike the examples previously mentioned, megastructures generated as a collection of units, Rodovre is only looks like this on the outside. The Metabolist dream provides no more than theatrics at the ground level, terraces throughout the building (which are nice) and an interesting shape. And so, 20 years later, the original anarchy of Kowloon reaches its endpoint: the City of Darkness transformed into an empty high-end condo aesthetic.