Small Town Metabolising
Metabolism in various forms treats archi-types as growing cells – it reorganises the relationship between a society and an individual by breaking away from hierarchical social structures and consolidating the position of an individual in Japanese society. In the context of the 1960s manifesto, metabolism allowed for the utopian mega-structures to critique socio-political problems and cultural frameworks that may not be addressed otherwise. In the context of the 2010 Venice Biennale, it allowed for voidism to be investigated in the suburban context, shaping the family life cycle of Tokyo. The vertically concentrated metabolism switches to the horizontal, and the vertical core metamorphosises to the void. Metabolism was used as a channel to put Japan on the international stage, and allowed architectural exploration into “Japaneseness” and what it meant to build in Japan’s archipelago. The West vs East was a constant dialogue, and architecture consolidating the reorganisation of relationships was fundamental.
In spite of their celebrated manifesto, Metabolism 1960 was deemed unsuccessful. The extent of its fall-out was overshadowed by neo-liberalism and failure to deliver built forms. In addition to the Metabolists’ architectural failure, Japan faces many problems caused by its rapidly decreasing population and the death of regional cities. The Japanese also support their cultural exotica and “particularity” in the population demographic and national identity; making it so difficult for the outsider to enter its society.
This thesis reassesses the failures and successes of Metabolism 1960, combines its successful frameworks with the aesthetics of popular contemporary Japanese architecture, and attempts to apply to the architecture of the Japanese rural towns. Specifically, a small town named Akizuki – where I grew to understand the importance of saving these beautiful rural towns. Using Akizuki as the site apparatus, Metabolist thinking and its architectural solutions will be applied to historical sites and the inhabitants within Akizuki to create a juxtaposition of architectural experience and subtle changes to transform the town. This thesis aims to re-organize relationships between the insider and outsider, the old and new, and Akizuki and the rest of the world. Let’s give Metabolism another shot.
Akizuki is located just 30 minutes from an international airport and 45 minutes from central Fukuoka City. The town has a unique history that dates back from the 11th century, with ruins of an old castle, many ancient shrines and temples, and samurai style houses once occupied by famous Japanese poets and craftsmen. The surrounding farmland crops produce exclusive to the area, and Akizuki’s Cherry Blossoms are arguably the best anywhere.
The seven projects spread across Akizuki act collectively to revitalise the town and re-organize the relationship between the residence and the outsiders. It was important to curate the process of different Metabolisms to suit each client and the site, as the “one solution for all problems” mentality was part of the down-fall of the Metabolists.