• Digesting Metabolism: Artificial Land in Japan 1954–2202
    Casey Mack
    Hatje Cantz, 2022
    Casey Mack

Masato Otaka, Artificial Land Platform, Phases 1 through 4, 1966–1985, Sakaide, Japan. Courtesy of Makiko Otaka.

Perhaps architecture’s most famous concept that the fewest have heard of—long buried by the term “megastructure” that it inspired—Le Corbusier’s idea of “artificial land” attempts to reconcile individual and collective, envisioning mass housing as stacked platforms of plots for building freestanding homes of all variety. Digesting Metabolism investigates eleven Japanese projects that translate this dream of flexible housing into built reality, illuminating its appeal for a country whose existing land, from both speculation and earthquakes, is highly unstable. First introduced to Japan in 1954 by Le Corbusier’s protégé, Takamasa Yosizaka, the typology is an essential key to the Metabolist architects who debuted in Tokyo in 1960, with it sparking their desire to add “a time factor into city planning.” Yet artificial land has had a hold on Japan’s metabolic imagination well beyond the ‘60s, promising domestic satisfaction and environmental resilience from the postwar period to today’s government policies. Digesting Metabolism uncovers this unique Japanese history and its possible future, finding ideas on infrastructure, change, and participation that challenge common models of housing.

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.