Published in 1997, Metabolism in Architecture is a collection of the author’s significant works in architecture and theoretical writing from 1960 to 1975. puts light on Japanese culture and architecture. The book presents a collection of 47 diverse projects and some articles grouped within four chapters. The book elaborates on the concept of Metabolism in architecture along with insights into the author’s personal life, Japanese culture and tradition and its influence on architecture.

Book in Focus: Metabolism in Architecture by Kisho Kurokawa - Sheet
Metabolism in Architecture-Kisho Kurokawa ©

The book starts with a preface by Kisho Kurokawa, where he talks about the contents of the book along with the chosen title for the book and its significance. He also speaks about his theory and ideology in the field. Following this comes an introduction by Charles Jencks which talks about the author’s early life, education and interests. It elaborates on the origin of the Metabolist movement and the term Metabolism, and it’s spread as a significant architectural style around the globe. 

The book is composed in a user-friendly way with appropriate chapter heads, pictures and text. The four chapters are: 

1A) Philosophy of Metabolism, 

1B) The Origin and History of Metabolist Movement, 

2A) Capsule Declaration, 

2B) Meta Architecture, 

3) Architecture of Streets, and 

4) Media space or En-space.

The first chapter in the book speaks about the development and evolution of Japan as well as the evolution of architectural styles broadly over four generations. It explains the theory of Metabolism against the background of five characteristics of Japanese society. The chapter also elaborates on the World Design Conference held in Tokyo which became the origin of the Metabolist movement in 1960. 

A few of the projects in this chapter include- Agricultural City 1960, Museum for Kumamoto City 1975, Service Area for the Tokyo-Nagoya Highway 1969, Redevelopment Plan for Downtown Kawasaki 1970, Metapolis- The Hishino Plan, etc.  Following this, the second chapter elaborates on Capsule. A capsule is a dwelling of Homo movens. It includes various articles written by the author over the years about Capsule. 

Book in Focus: Metabolism in Architecture by Kisho Kurokawa - Sheet2
Metabolism in Architecture-Agricultural City ©

The chapter also has significant projects by the author along with pictures for support. It elaborates on the term Meta-architecture as well as its problems and considerations Along with diverse projects like Prefabricated Apartment House 1962, Discotheque Space Capsule 1968, Floating Factory, ‘Metabonate’ 1969, Capsule House in the Theme Pavilion, Expo ’70, Drive-In Restaurant, ‘Otome Toge’ 1969, Toshiba Ihi Pavilion, Expo ’70, Um Al-Kanhazeer Project 1975; the chapter also extensively speaks about the Nakagin Capsule Tower built-in 1962.

Book in Focus: Metabolism in Architecture by Kisho Kurokawa - Sheet3
Metabolism in Architecture-Capsule House in the Theme Pavilion, Expo ’70  ©

The third chapter speaks about the Architecture of streets. It finds parallels between the Vedic scriptures and cities in ancient India with that of the ancient Japanese cities and planning. It elaborates on the planning and composition of cities, roads and street networks and the planning of public spaces. It also explains the influence of Buddhism on Japanese city arrangements and planning. The chapter has various examples of various forms of street architecture as well as their application. Some of them are: Nishijin Labour Centre 1962, Central Lodge in the National Children’s Land 1965, Hans Christian Andersen Memorial Museum 1965, Kyoto International Conference Hall 1963, Daido Insurance Building, Tokyo 1975, etc.

Kyoto International Conference Hall, 1963  ©

The fourth chapter in the book extensively talks about en-space or media space. En-space is a self-regulated internal space within greater private space and on other hand also expresses an opening towards the outside. The chapter includes various examples, projects and notes that explain the media space furthermore. Some of them are: Head Office of the Fukuoka Bank 1975, Sagae City Hall 1967, National Ethnology Museum 1975, The Resort Town Okutadeshina 1965, Yamagata Resort Centre 1967, Waki-cho City Hall 1975 and Sports Centre, Vasto, Italy 1975

Every chapter is elaborated in simple yet effective writing and makes it easier for anyone to pick up knowledge about the topic. The terms, concepts, events are explained concisely. The book not only focuses on Metabolism in Architecture but also provides massive knowledge about Japanese culture and tradition. The text that goes with each project is very crisp yet comprehensive. 

Metabolism in Architecture-Sagae City Hall, 1967 ©

The sequence of projects and articles in the book makes every topic understandable.  The language of the book is quite simple but might be heavy for readers who do not belong to the field. The author of the book being an architect himself has done a great job in explaining his ideology, concepts and terminology along with his projects and articles. 

In addition, the book has a detailed bibliography at the end which is very useful for further reading into the topic. The author has done an exemplary job in putting together this book that gives us vast knowledge about Metabolism in Architecture as well as Japanese culture. It is surely a must-read for everyone interested in architecture, planning and Japanese culture.



Ria is a bachelor's student pursuing Architecture. Her interests include food, films and urban sketching. She wants to combine her passion for architecture and writing to make people think about various subjects.