Kisho Kurokawa: ‘Music for living space’

Eleanor Gawne, December 2015, AA Library

As the elements of architecture are related to the human body, they are also interlinked with the biological concept, the idea that architecture and cities can behave like living organisms. Kisho Kurokawa was one of the founders of the Japanese Metabolist Movement in 1960. Metabolism expressed the idea that the city is an organism with different areas of growth, so architecture had to change and be flexible.

Kurokawa’s early works include Takara Beautilion, Theme Pavilion, and Toshiba IHI Pavilion for Expo ’70 (Osaka, 1970) and the Nakagin Capsule Tower, in Ginza, Tokyo, 1970–1972. In addition to being a busy architect, he was a prolific author as well; at the age of forty he had designed and built 35 major buildings and written 17 books. Writing in 1977, Charles Jencks remarks that he was Japan’s third most popular person (Kurokawa, Kisho. Metabolism in architecture, Studio Vista, 1977, p.8).

Capsule, metabolism, spaceframe, metamorphose by Kisho Kurokawa (other title Kisho Kurokawa: his work), was published by Bijitshu Shopansha, Tokyo, in 1970, the same year as Expo’70 in Osaka.  Primarily a visual scrapbook with a mix of Western Victorian-style graphics with traditional Japanese imagery and text, the book consists of images that show the construction of the pavilions at the Expo, as well as drawings and photographs of models that illustrate the use of prefabricated parts and a space frame. The book, which measures 27 cm x 37 cm,  came with a large folded poster (see image) as well as a 7 inch vinyl record entitled ‘Music for living space’. The record can be listened on youtube, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsqazgILD9M


As well as documenting the pavilions at Expo’70, the book includes some of Kurokawa’s earlier work such as designs for flats and other housing, the Seattle Civic Center Fountain competition of 1961, office buildings, town planning schemes and hotels.

This book was one of nine books by Kurokawa and presented by him to the Library in February 1974. Kurakawa gave a talk at the AA on his work on 1 November 1973 so this might have been the actual occasion of this generous gift. In the AA Events List for 29 October to 2 November 1973 to illustrate the notice about the talk, there is an illustration of Kurokawa’s Takara Group pavilion (beautilion) at Expo ’70 titled ‘Archigram come true, a structure of steel and plastic plug-in units’.