Kisho Kurokawa’s Organic Architecture

BY Christian Sager / POSTED October 7, 2013
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kirokawa_feature_600x350 Nakagin Capsule Tower. Photo Credit: pictureTYO cc

Last week I stumbled across photos of the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo, designed by Kisho Kurokawa. While many might find the aesthetic unappealing, I was immediately drawn to the interiors of each capsule. They remind me of Bruce Willis’ apartment in “The Fifth Element,” small and utilitarian. Such design appeals to my instinct to crawl into a warm, little burrow every once in awhile with a good book. I decided to look further into Kurokawa’s work and discovered he was quite a visionary when it came to architecture and environmental design.

Interior Photo Credit: MIKI Yoshihito (´・ω・) via Compfight cc Nakagin Capsule Tower (interior). Photo Credit: MIKI Yoshihito cc

Kurokawa was one of the founders of a philosophical approach to architecture in the 1960s called Metabolism. Taking the metaphor from the chemical reactions in our bodies that process matter and energy, these architects argued that buildings should be as adjustable as living organisms. The idea was for these structures to evolve over time with their surroundings. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case with the Nakagin Capsule Tower, as it has been scheduled for demolition on and off again for the last seven years.

Other designs from Kurokawa include:

Later in life, Kurokawa expanded upon Metabolism with another architectural movement called Symbiosis. Still comparing buildings to living organisms, this aesthetic also attempted to integrate construction within its surrounding habitat. For example, the airport in Kuala Lumpur achieved this by blending its terminals in with the surrounding rain forest.

Kuala Lumpur Airport. Photo Credit: rushdi13 via Compfight cc Kuala Lumpur Airport. Photo Credit: rushdi13 via Compfight cc

Before he passed away from heart failure in 2007, Kurokawa even tried his hand in politics, running for both governor of Tokyo and the upper house of Japan’s parliament. Clearly this was a man who was persistent, productive and interested in how his work influenced the surrounding world. Here’s hoping more architects take inspiration from him to develop the next generation of architecture designed in harmony with its ecosystem.

Lots More Information

  • Sokol, D. “Kurokawa Dies at 73.” Architectural Record. Page 36. November, 2007.
  • Ivy, R. “Kisho Kurokawa Designed For Change at Japan’s Largest Art Venue, The National Art Center, a Mega Museum With No Permanent Collection.” Architectural Record. Volume 95. No. 11. Page 142-. 2007.
  • Pogrebin, R. “Kisho Kurokawa, Japanese Architect Who Pioneered Organic Structures, Dies at 73.” New York Times. Page. 28. October 21, 2007.
  • Urban, F. “Japanese ‘Occidentalism’ and the Emergence of Postmodern Architecture.” Journal of Architectural Education. Volume 65. No. 2. Pages 89-102. 2012.
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