Glorification of the future is something I’ve been coming across a lot lately, especially now that I’m reading up on Metabolism, the Japanese architectural movement that literally rose from the tabula rasa that Japan was confronted with – and sought out herself – on many levels in the first half of the twentieth century.
The Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, Japan’s outright imperialism in the 1930s and the firebombing and atomic bombing of cities in 1945 all created vast, empty, laden landscapes.
Metabolism, rooted in non-political left-wing ideals, saw in these happenings an opportunity to rebuild the future as they envisioned – and hoped for. An architectural utopian dream of New Urbanism in a sense, with at its core the almost biological self sustainability and adaptability to change. The ever present existentialist concept of impermanence in Japanese culture. Nothings lasts, so be ready to change along the way.
Architect Kenzo Tange played a key role by lifting up Japanese architecture beyond the then existing duality of Functionalism vs traditionalism, essentially laying the foundations for the movement he was spearheading. Metabolism disappeared after Expo ’70. Its greatest success, its core ideals becoming part of “mainstream” thinking about architecture and urbanisation, was also its inevitable demise.
What struck me most is that they published a manifesto in 1960. A statement made up of four essays by four members, each presenting their thoughts behind an architectural concept.
A manifesto… it’s something we shy away from nowadays, for fear of making statements that we might need to recant. But maybe we need to have more of these theoretical artistic public statements again.
Not to promote our work, but to talk about our intentions, our motives, our beliefs. make bold claims of changes that we strive for, not changes that need come true, but show a commitment, a deep original thinking about this world we live in.