artscape Japan
artscape Japanese site
Monthly Mail Contact Us
HOME FOCUS  PICKS MUSEUM DB ABOUT
HOME > FOCUS > A Circular View of the 21st-Century City: Tokyo Metabolizing
Focus: More Focus

Focus features two in-depth reviews each month of fine art, architecture and design exhibitions and events at art museums, galleries and alternative spaces around Japan. The contributors are non-Japanese art critics living in Japan.

A Circular View of the 21st-Century City: Tokyo Metabolizing
Susan Rogers Chikuba
The juxtaposition of open and closed spaces in Koh Kitayama's Yutenji Apartments (Meguro ward) is a study in restoring a relational context to city living, whereby residents and their neighborhoods are no longer isolated. The exhibition recreates the work in 1:20 scale.
Yutenji Apartments by Koh Kitayama; 2010 © Architecture Workshop; photo by Daici Ano

Tokyo's constant flux, its organic ability to change appearance seemingly overnight, has intrigued and vexed visitors and residents alike since the city's earliest days. This perpetual cycle of destruction and renewal inspired the radical Metabolist movement led by prominent Japanese architects in the 1960s, now revisited -- from a humanist perspective -- in house inside city outside house -- Tokyo Metabolizing at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery.

An expanded version of the Japan Pavilion presentation curated by Koh Kitayama at last year's Venice Biennale, the show is a collaborative effort by Kitayama, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kaijima of Atelier Bow-Wow, and Ryue Nishizawa. They posit that if a home is a reflection of the dreams and aspirations of its occupants, then it is the unsung residential areas rather than the skyscrapers and megadevelopments of the commercial sphere that give a city its distinctive energy, and where we are most likely to find hints of its future.

Via filmic and photographic essays and large-scale models of their recent works, the architects examine Tokyo's urban image from both practical and theoretical standpoints, and in so doing make much sense out of its chaotic messiness. In particular, their typology of site contexts and development patterns is so fittingly persuasive that you may find yourself applying these models to the streetscapes you pass on the way home, reading familiar scenes in a new light.

In the densely built neighborhood of Sugacho between Shinjuku and Yotsuya, Atelier Bow-Wow's "House & Atelier" combines the architect couple's living quarters and workspaces under one roof, gently demarcating these areas with screens. The exhibition shows the spaces in near half-scale.
House & Atelier; 2005 © Atelier Bow-Wow

It's oddly reassuring to take pause and consider that Tokyo's eccentricity is not something that is "out there happening to us," but a fuzzy complex intrinsic to its inhabitants' own everyday behavior. "The noise and bustle continue," the folklorist and manga artist Shigeo Miyao (1902-82) once wrote of this city, "but they are merely the heartbeats and laboring breaths of a vigorous city striving to catch up with its citizens." Amen to that -- and Kitayama et al. would certainly agree.

In conjunction with the show, several informal talks (conducted in Japanese) are planned at the gallery: on September 6, urban design critic Hidetoshi Ohno and Koh Kitayama; on September 15, urban and architectural historian Hidenobu Jinnai and Koh Kitayama; and on September 18, community designer Mariko Saigo and architect Momoyo Kaijima of Atelier Bow-Wow. Advance reservations are required; please check the gallery website for details.

The admission ticket to Tokyo Metabolizing includes entrance to two concurrent shows on the gallery's upper floor: one featuring the wood-and-bronze sculptures of Tomoyuki Hotai; the other, yuzen-dyed silks by textile artist Toru Ishii, whose humorous portrayal of local city scenes dovetails nicely with the Tokyo Metabolizing themes.

The six dwellings of Ryue Nishizawa's Moriyama House (Ota ward) are programmed like so many building blocks strewn about, with intimate passageways and open spaces between them that link with the surrounding community. The exhibition presents this work in 1:2 scale.
Moriyama House by Ryue Nishizawa; 2005 © Office of Ryue Nishizawa

All photographs provided by Tokyo Opera City Gallery

house inside city outside house -- Tokyo Metabolizing
Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery
16 July - 2 October 2011
image
Susan Rogers Chikuba
Susan Rogers Chikuba, a Tokyo-based writer, editor and translator, has been following popular culture, architecture and design in Japan for 25 years. She covers the country's travel, real estate, hospitality and culinary scenes for domestic and international publications.
More Focus
Recent Articles
FOCUS
Secret Garden: Photographer Yumiko Izu's Lyrical Prints
Susan Rogers Chikuba
1 July 2014
FOCUS
From the Vaults: The New National Archives of Modern Architecture
Nicolai Kruger
1 July 2014
HERE/THERE
A Grab-Bag of Installations: The Hakone Open-Air Museum "Meets Art"
Alan Gleason
1 July 2014
PICKS
Nostalgia and Fantasy: Imagination and Its Origins in Contemporary Art
1 July 2014
FOCUS
The Classical Beauties of Ukiyo-e
Christopher Stephens
2 June 2014
FOCUS
Training Passion: The Hara Model Railway Museum
Lucy Birmingham
2 June 2014
HERE/THERE
Spiritual Worlds at the Photography Museum
Alan Gleason
2 June 2014
PICKS
Kineo Kuwabara's Photographs: Tokyo Sketches of 60 Years
2 June 2014
>> Back Issues
ggg ddd CCGA LOUVRE-DNP MUSEUM LAB English LOUVRE-DNP MUSEUM LAB Francais Maison des Musées du Monde
DNP Art Communications ©1996-2014 DAI NIPPON PRINTING Co., Ltd.
artscape is the registered trademark of DAI NIPPON PRINTING Co., Ltd.