• Digested Metabolism: The Evolution of the Artificial Land Typology in Japan
    Casey Mack

Stratiform Structure Module Study Group, Stratiform Structure Module, c. 1977. Courtesy of the Mechanical Social Systems Foundation.

Far overshadowed in architecture’s collective memory by the related concept of megastructure, artificial land was another key typology for the Japanese Metabolists, explored by the group from their debut at the Tokyo World Design Conference in 1960 until their disintegration in 1973. The typology’s idea of mass housing as an infrastructural skeleton supporting the creation of highly adaptable residences strongly resonated with Metabolism’s biologically-inspired interest in the continuous transformation of human habitat. But the concept has actually lived well beyond 1973. This research works to develop a microhistory of a collection of built Japanese projects that have borne artificial land’s evolution from the heroic Metabolist period to what could be called the digested Metabolist period of the present. Its intention is to study processes enabled by the artificial land concept that could serve a present whose need for ecological design may indeed merge with metabolic design.

Casey Mack is an architect and the director of Brooklyn-based Popular Architecture, an office devoted to simplicity and innovation in design across multiple scales. His work has been published in Harvard Design Magazine, OASE, The Avery Review, and Domus China.