Thursday, December 27, 2012

Metabolism in New York?

One of the biggest differences between Los Angeles and New York is the direction in which people build. In New York you go North and South and in LA you go East and West. I am not saying one is better than the other, I am just stating the obvious. And when you think about it, the direction in which architects design reflects how we interpret when someone claims they are from that city. For example, when someone says they are from NY we automatically assume Manhattan because that is all that is shown on tv; towering skyscrapers that also go well underground. If you claim you are from the City of Angels people begin to ask "which part?", because most people not from the area believe LA is all of Southern California with arial views of the beach, Hollywood sign and Staples Center. Like I said, I am not saying one is better the other. Both have produced beautiful cityscapes, attract million of visitors every year and offer a fusion of cultures, which includes architectural styles, but there is one style that never was really established; a style that grows in all directions.

When I took Modern Japanese Architecture at Columbia I learned about metabolism. It was a style that originated in Japan by a small group of architects and the purpose was to serve the organic growth of large metropolitan areas. I understand that its aesthetic can be hard on the eyes, but with so many people concentrated in one area I would think there would be a couple existing examples in the States. Conceptually, I personally think it would help many large cities across the world provide housing for their rich and their poor, but the biggest concern is the execution of constructing these structures. The concept is easy: build a structural frame where you can easily insert and take out pod like pieces into the frame. The structure itself can also expand which essentially makes the cliche "the sky is limit" very true because there never really is an end to this style. The difficulty of such a style is connecting water and power sources, access points such as staircases and elevators etc. 

The renderings above are a proposed project by IAMZ Studio for a residential tower in Manhattan. If you never seen an example of metabolism I can see how it can be a radical form of architecture. The "Chlorophyll Tower" above consists of pods attached to a supporting frame. It is unaware what specific technology would be used, but the design will absorb CO2 and light and convert it into energy and make the building self-sufficient. The structure will also include public spaces such as restaurants and retail stores. There isn't much press about the project with only renderings and a few plans and elevations available, but it is enough to wonder why something like this is not in the NY skyline. Is it too radical for the U.S.? Is it merely just a fantasy rather than a reality? The last major metabolism project was in the 70's which reflects how hard or how disliked this style is, but for me we will never know until we try. Designers are way too creative to erect a completely flawed building, and as different as it looks, it is pretty cool. I would love to live in something like this, and it would address 2 major issues: pollution and overpopulation. Both of these issues are not at a high danger level, but they can be if new ideas and concepts are not generated to address them. Maybe and hopefully this can come to life, and LA will than soon enough construct its own.

Below are images of completed projects including Kiro Kurokawa's "Nakagin Capsule Tower", Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Center and Marine City (which was never built).

Maybe I am bias because I like the architecture that comes out of Japan, but I believe metabolism is something that should be rejuvunetaed and taking seriously again. I can definitely see this style utilized in cities hosting large sporting events like the World Cup or Olympics. Think about it, hosting cities become overpopulated with passionate fans, with a lot of them struggling trying to find a place to stay. Metabolism will allow the construction of super structures that can be decreased after the event to prevent cities from being unable to keep them fully occupied and essentially costing the city millions of dollars. Also, if there is a technology available that converts CO2 and light into enough energy to not just make the building functional, but also help eliminate danger toxins from our atmosphere, than why not? 

What do you think? Will this tower come to life? and if it does, will other cities follow NY and begin erecting metabolic structures?


  1. Yeah, I'll get over it eventually and maybe even really soon but that doesn't make it hurt any less right now.

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  2. thanks for sharing..

  3. No problem. I appreciate both of you guys checking out my blog.