Rem Koolhaas’ Current Fascinations: On Identity, Asia, the Biennale, & More

Courtesy of Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture, and Design, via Flickr

In this interview, originally published in The Architectural Review, Andrew Mackenzie sits down with founder Rem Koolhaas to discuss the Venice Biennale, the extinction of national identities, his fascination with Asia, the link between De Rotterdam and Delirious New York, and the future of the profession.

Your proposition for this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale asks whether national identity has been, as you say, ‘sacrificed to modernity’. Some might view this as a project of reclamation, not unlike Frampton’s regionalism. How would you differentiate your proposition from Frampton’s?

Well, Kenneth Frampton is a smart guy, but the problem is that he looked at regionalism as an antidote to cosmopolitan development. In so doing he perverted the cause of regionalism, because suddenly regionalism was mobilised as a private cause that it couldn’t sustain. However, the question of national identity is an open one. For instance, at first sight the Netherlands is a very internationalist country, but looking closely you can see an enormous return of, not vernacular, but quasi-vernacular architecture and quasi-old fortresses that are newly built with a national flavour. Look at Zaandam, and that huge assemblage of so-called vernacular buildings.

Kikutake’s Sky House: Where Metabolism & Le Corbusier Meet

Sky House, Tokyo, 1958. Image © Kawashima Architecture Photograph Office

In this article, first published in the Australian Design Review as “The Meeting of East and West: Kikutake and Le Corbusier“, Michael Holt outlines the cross-fertilization of ideas that helped spawn the Japanese Metabolist movement, focusing on how Le Corbusier’s ideals were key in the design of one of the movement’s most enigmatic projects, Kiyonori Kikutake’s Sky House.

Japanese architect Kiyonori Kikutake’s Sky House (1958) remains an exemplary project that defines the Metabolist agenda but, more significantly, underscores the notion that a single-family dwelling can be ideologically recursive and strategic. Kikutake, however, was not without a somewhat unlikely precedent in the renowned Le Corbusier.

Both architects established an order and method of working via their smallest designs – Kikutake in Sky House and Le Corbusier at Villa Savoye (1929) – and developed their notions through written accounts (Kikutake’s Metabolist Manifesto, 1960 and Le Corbusier’s Purist Manifesto, predating the built work, in 1918). Finally, each scales up their ideas to the level of the urban through Kikutake’s Tower-Shaped Community Project (1959) and Le Corbusier’s Urbanisme at Chandigarh, India (1953). To locate the origin of the influence, it is necessary to first examine Le Corbusier’s position as the figurehead of Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM).

Read on for more about this unlikely chain of influence

Nakagin Capsule Tower: A Prototype for Today’s Micro Housing

© Arcspace

Seizing on the current trend for ‘micro-apartments‘ in cities such as New York, Fast Company has an interesting profile (including some great photos) of the Nakagin Capsule Tower, the 1972 Japanese building, one of the first (and still one of the most extreme) examples of small-plan living. The article explores both the successful and unsuccessful elements of the design, such as the difficult maintenance and non-openable windows, as well as the ongoing battle for preservation since the residents voted to replace the tower with a conventional building. You can read the full article here.

AD Classics: Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Center / Kenzo Tange

Courtesy of Petr Šmídek - www.archiweb.cz

“Architects today tend to depreciate themselves, to regard themselves as no more than just ordinary citizens without the power to reform the future.” -

In honor of what would have been Kenzo Tange’s 100th birthday, AD Classics presents one of the Japanese master’s most iconic projects – the Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Center. Built in 1967, the building was the first spatial realization of Tange’s Metabolist ideas of organically-inspired structural growth, developed in the late 1950s. The Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Center is far more significant than its relatively small size would suggest, encapsulating the concepts of  the new Metabolistic order in architecture and urban planning that prevailed in post-World War II .

 More about this icon of Metabolism after the break…. 

Lecture: What Was Metabolism? Reflections on the Life of Kiyonori Kikutake / Toyo Ito

This lecture, brought to you by the Graduate School of Design, explores the Metabolism movement of the 1960s and its influence on Japanese Architecture through today.  Toyo Ito reflects on the life of Kiyonori Kikutake and the continued relevance of his works and ideas in today’s design culture.

Continue reading for more…