Japan Pavilion at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition, the Venice Biennale in 2010: Outline of the Japanese Participation

Outline of the Japanese Participation

Commissioner: Koh Kitayama
(Architect / Professor at Yokohama National University and Yokohama Graduate School of Architecture (Y-GSA))
Exhibitors: Yoshiharu Tsukamoto
(Architect / Associate Professor/Dr. (Engineering) at Tokyo Institute of Technology Graduate School),
Ryue Nishizawa
(Architect / Professor at Yokohama National University and Yokohama Graduate School of Architecture (Y-GSA))

The year 2010, during which the 12th International Architecture Exhibition will be held at the Venice Biennale, marks the 50th anniversary of "Metabolism."

Emerging from Japan to exert a worldwide influence, the Metabolist movement set its sights on a new vision of architecture and the city. The movement was based on the revolutionary notion that, like a machine, a city could be metabolized by replacing its functional components. This image of the megalomaniac city, however, has not yet come to pass. Nevertheless, in considering aspects of Tokyo that have undergone tremendous change in the last 50 years, the concepts that were verbalized by Metabolism have made quiet progress.

Unlike the urban structure of a European city, produced through a series of walls, the structure of Tokyo is based on an aggregation of independent buildings (grains). In other words, there is a system inherent in the city that easily facilitates distinct and individual changes. In observing the unique buildings that emerge in contemporary Tokyo, with its constantly changing form, it becomes apparent that the city is an incubation mechanism for the birth of "New Architecture" and urban architectural theory.

Following the devastating crash of the capitalist economy, architecture, an icon of economic authority, has lost its leading role in the city and come to be questioned for its manner of supporting our lives. Although the city is the site of economic activity, the vast majority of its functions are concerned with daily life. Rather than looking at the economic spectacles that were developed over the latter half of the 20th century, I would like to express the fact that change itself, as an accumulation of quiet urban elements with daily life at their core, affects a spectacular influence on the appearance of the city. Throughout history, every city has been shaped by an uneven distribution of power (authority). In contemporary Tokyo, continually changing like a living organism before our eyes, an urban landscape, which has never appeared before, is being born out of a ubiquitous yet weak form of power (complete democracy). This also indicates the form of architecture that we must attain in order to support our lives as a symbiosis between environment and city, and as a community.

Both Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Ryue Nishizawa are in their mid-40s, and both are active in developing works and writings that represent the cutting edge of contemporary Japanese architecture. While responding to the urban situation in contemporary Tokyo as architects, both designers have also worked to develop "New Architecture" and urban architectural theory. In this exhibition, I hope to guide the viewer through their architectural work and shed light on the urban image of Tokyo with daily life at its core.

Half a century after the huge impact of the Metabolist model, this exhibition will indicate Japan's potential to once again become an ideological leader in world architecture and the city.

Koh Kitayama


Photo of House & Atelier Bow-Wow House & Atelier Bow-Wow (Yoshiharu Tsukamoto + Momoyo Kaijima)

Photo of Moriyama House Moriyama House (Ryue Nishizawa)

The Japan Foundation

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