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Tradition in Metabolism: The Varied Approaches of Kenzo Tange and Kisho Kurokawa in Their Utilization of Tradition in Architecture

Part 2 Dissertation 2014
Terence Tang
National University of Singapore | Singapore
The utopian megastructural visions of the avant-garde Metabolists initially appear to suggest a new urbanism primarily driven by the employment of futuristic technology. However, a closer reading of the movement reveals itself as a critical response against functionalist modernism and an attempt to assimilate Japanese tradition into modern architecture. Does therein not lie a seeming contradiction, for do we not associate technology with the present, while tradition, the past?

In The Invention of Tradition, Eric Hobsbawm challenges our common perception of tradition by suggesting that traditions are but deliberate constructs of modernity. Certainly, Japanese modernists in postwar Japan were observed to approach the use of tradition with an enthused, opportunistic attitude; why and how did they utilize tradition in the creation of modern Japanese architecture?

A critical study of Kenzo Tange and Kisho Kurokawa, two figures central to Metabolism, reveals that both architects adopted distinctively different approaches in their utilization of tradition; while Tange is observed to adopt an occasionally formalistic – and arguably, predictable – approach, Kurokawa’s is characterized by the use of abstract philosophical references, littered with neologisms.

The investigation will culminate in a comparison between their respective Metabolist proposals for the city: Tange’s Plan for Tokyo (1960) and Kurokawa’s Floating City (1961). Elucidating the differences between the two schemes, this paper will analyze and critique how Tange’s and Kurokawa’s varied approaches towards the use of tradition have resulted in two markedly different visions for the future cit

Terence Tang

Tsuto Sakamoto
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