Metabolic Toyko (Tokyo Study Abroad Seminar)

Tokyo has been rebuilt numerous times through its history following natural disasters, war and intensive development. Most recently, the profound strains on the Japanese urban infrastructure caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11,2011 raise fundamental questions about its capacity to maintain resiliency and address ongoing societal and ecological change. Can Tokyo as a global megacity sustain its demands for energy, food, and transportation within its environmental context? How might individual designers shape a built environment that responds to these challenges?  
Half a century ago, designers faced similar challenges, highlighted by the1960 Tokyo World Design Conference that set the Japanese capital at center stage of discussions of the future of cities.  The conference brought together leading designers from around the world with their Japanese counterparts including Tange Kenzô (1913-2005) and the younger emerging Metabolist Group who presented fantastical visions of Tokyo. Schemes such as Kikutake Kiyonori’s megastructural Oceanic City along with Tange’s own 1960 Tokyo Bay Plan sought to address the tremendous population influx of the burgeoning postwar metropolis, intensified by unprecedented economic growth and the planning for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.  Faced with the particularities of Tokyo’s urban structure based on the foundations of the former feudal capital of Edo, architects looked to expand both horizontallyinto Tokyo Bay and vertically upward through schemes such as Isozaki Arata’s “Cities in the Sky” as transformations of modal hubs of Shinjuku, Shibuya and Marunouchi.  While many of the concurrent visionary urban designs from this period, including Yona Friedman’s “Mobile Architecture” (1958) in France and the British Archigram Group’s “Walking City/Plug-in City” (1964), remained unrealized “paper architecture,” built designs, such as Kurokawa Kisho’s Nakagin Capsule Tower (1972) together with the elevated Tokyo Expressway and Bullet Train, became powerful examples for the world to see of a dynamic urban infrastructure using new techniques of prefabrication and addressing the vicissitudes of the modern city as well as emerging uncertainty towards issues of climate and the environment.  
This seminar will explore these issues from feudal Edo to contemporary Tokyo leading up to the work of architects including Fumihiko Maki, Arata Isozaki, and Toyo Ito, who worked for Kiyonori Kikutake, through theoretical and historical enquiries and site visits that underscore the dynamism of the Japanese metropolis.

Tokyo Study Abroad Seminar