Examining the work of Tokyo architect Toyo Ito (b. 1941) – particularly his now seminal Sendai Mediatheque (1995-2001), Serpentine Gallery (London, 2002, with Cecil Balmond), TOD's Omotesando Building (Tokyo, 2004), Tama Art University Library (Tokyo, 2007), and National Taichung Theater (2009-16) – will immediately become apparent these buildings’ structural innovations and spatial, non-hierarchical organizations. Although these structures all seem to be quite diverse, there is one unifying theme – the architect’s consistent commitment to erasing fixed boundaries between inside and outside and relaxing spatial divisions between various programs within. There is continuity in how these buildings are explored. They are conceived as systems rather than objects and they never really end; one could imagine their formations and patterns to continue to evolve and expand pretty much endlessly.
Kiyonori Kikutake: The Latest Architecture and News
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
This lecture, brought to you by the Harvard 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.
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