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2011.11.03

A book review on Rem Koolhaas' Project Japan

I happened to read Mr.Jack Self's book review on Project Japan, as of the Oct.29 issue of The Architectural Review web mag.

 

The clear-cut summary by Self is such a persuasive argument that urged me to read the tome, yet, at the same time, it made me feel there's no need to do so with this absolute illuminating review!

 

Self accurately points out that Koolhaas politicalized the Metabolism or urged it in a political context, describes that the neo-liberal economy broke down the last utopian dreams of Metabolist architects'.

 

Although this perfect summary hardly needs any annotations, still, some thoughts on its historical context to be followed.

 

Each architects' dream can be labeled as avant-garde,radical,utopian and so on. Whatever the catch may be, these dreams shared a belief that they are capable of reconstructing a society by means of architectural forms and spatial re-organizations.

 

However, their dreams were blown off by economic system. Prime Minister T launched a new urban policy that was taken over by his successor Prime Minister N, who even expanded it on a large scale, suffocating these architects' dreams.

 

In the 70's and 80's, Metabolism was criticized under the names of culture, tradition or human value, for being a successor of so-called functionalism / rationalism of the modern architecture, or for being an advocate of the economic boom's scrap-and-build policy. However, such an immediate criticism may have disturbed to make a longer-term longer-perspective criticism.

 

Here is a paradox: the metabolism once being criticized for embracing the economic logics, may have been betrayed by the very logic of the economy.

 

The Japanese modern architecture seems to have made a strong tradition of asserting thoughts in terms of non-politics, retaining to be architectural. That's why Koolhaas' straight-forward politicalization appears so novel. However, it is unlikely that he will provide a model to any architectural theorizations in Japan.

(注)文化の日ということで、前項の英語バージョンを書いてみました。

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