Metabolism was a post-war Japanese architectural movement that fused ideas about architectural megastructures with those of organic biological growth. It had its first international exposure during CIAM’s 1959 meeting and its ideas were tentatively tested by students from Kenzo Tange’s MIT studio.
During the preparation for the 1960 Tōkyō World Design Conference a group of young architects and designers, including Kiyonori Kikutake, Kisho Kurokawa and Fumihiko Maki prepared the publication of the Metabolism manifesto. They were influenced by a wide variety of sources including Marxist theories and biological processes. Their manifesto was a series of four essays entitled: Ocean City, Space City, Towards Group Form, and Material and Man, and it also included designs for vast cities that floated on the oceans and plug-in capsule towers that could incorporate organic growth. Although the World Design Conference gave the Metabolists exposure on the international stage their ideas remained largely theoretical.
Some smaller, individual buildings that employed the principles of Metabolism were built and these included Tange’s Yamanashi Press and Broadcaster Centre and Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower. The greatest concentration of their work was to be found at the 1970 World Exposition in Osaka where Tange was responsible for master planning the whole site whilst Kikutake and Kurokawa designed pavilions. After the 1973 oil crisis, the Metabolists turned their attention away from Japan and toward Africa and the Middle East.