• Digesting Metabolism: Artificial Land in Japan 1954–2202
    Casey Mack
    Princeton Architectural Press, 2017
    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" reconciles suburban independence with urban density, envisioning mass housing as platforms of plots for building freestanding houses. 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 economics and earthquakes, is highly unstable. First introduced to Japan in 1954 by Le Corbusier's protégé, Takamasa Yoshizaka, the typology is a key to the Metabolist architects who appeared in Tokyo in 1960, sparking their desire to add "a time factor into city planning." Yet it has actually had a much longer hold on the nation's metabolic imagination, promising domestic satisfaction and environmental resilience from the postwar period to today's government policies. Digesting Metabolism uncovers artificial land's unique Japanese history and its vision of the future to export ideas on infrastructure, change, and ownership that challenge common models of housing.

Casey Mack is an architect and the director of Brooklyn-based Popular Architecture, an office devoted to combining simplicity with versatility in work across multiple scales. He has taught urban design at the New York Institute of Technology and Passive House housing at Parsons School of Constructed Environments, and has been published in Domus ChinaCLOGThe Avery ReviewBracket, and OASE.