Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Metabolism Architecture

By Kyle Fountain

For our final project in Global Traditions, we are producing a twenty page research paper on a non-western historically significant structure of our choice.  Although I have chosen the Nakagin Capsule Tower as my subject, I dedicated a substantial portion toward the beginnings and concepts of the Metabolism Architecture Movement.  Their philosophy of “Impermanence” was derived from the dichotomies of the Ise Shrine which has been torn down and rebuilt every twenty years for over 12 centuries, and the aftermath of World War II where many villages and metropolises were forced to rebuild from scratch (Koolhaus, et al, 2011).  The following is one draft chapter from my paper on Metabolism and the Nakagin Capsule Tower.
Metabolism – “The chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life.  Two kinds of metabolism are often distinguished: Constructive Metabolism, the synthesis of the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that form tissue, and store energy, and destructive metabolism, the breakdown of complex substances and the consequent production of energy and waste matter” (, 2015). 
The goals of Metabolism designs were often examples of both Constructive Metabolism and Destructive Metabolism.  For instance, the Nakagin Capsule Tower was designed to be assembled and disassembled every twenty five years. Rather than attempting to design a building to last forever, the Nakagin Capsule Tower design understood the rapid rate urbanism can and should adapt with its surrounding context and technologies.
Upon the end of World War II, and the Corbusien/Swiss born Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM), a new optimism for solving problems by way of modern architecture and urban design philosophies was growing.  Metabolism 1960 was the initial manifesto spawning the movement (Koolhaas, et al, 2011).  “The plan was an information and communication network capable of growth and change through the extension of parallel loops forming an extended spine that stretched from The Imperial Palace, in central Tokyo, across Tokyo Bay, to the suburbs of Chiba Prefecture” (Ross, 1978).  Tange’s plan for Tokyo as depicted in Figure 1 was the retaliation of a haphazard Japanese urban sprawling as the population began growing exponentially.  Tange wanted to mitigate the lack of qualitative master planning that was beginning to shape Tokyo. 

Figure 1- Kenzo Tange Tsukiji Plan (
Tange aimed to incorporate western planning techniques such as predetermined areas he called “urban communication centers” but are often referred to as plazas, which were not previously seen in traditional Japanese cities (Ross, 1978).  As Tange’s ideas began to attract the attention of his informal protégés, a social meeting of what might now be called a mastermind group was formed with the collective intention of preparing and planning for the future development of Tokyo.  The group was named after the title of their 1960 manifesto, Metabolism.  The founding members consisted of one architectural critic and four practicing architects.  The critic was Noboru Kawazoe, and the four architects were:  Kisho Kurokawa (Nakagin Capsule Tower designer), Kiyonori Kikutake, Fumihiko Maki, and Masato Otaka.  The members were very young relative to the profession, ranging in age from mid-twenties to lower thirties.  Likewise, their education background and professional experiences were equally diverse ranging from Harvard and working at SOM New York, to Kyoto University, and apprenticing directly under Kenzo Tange (Ross, 1978).  Together, the group invariably began designing megastructures with the central master plan coming from Tange’s Tokyo plan of 1960 (Ross, 1978). 

Figure 2 – Kenzo Tange Tsukiji Plan Elevation (
These megastructure charrettes maintained the notion that urban infrastructure, especially transportation, was innovating at a much slower rate than building technologies.  What was hypothesized over a half century ago can be evident in large metropolises such as Chicago where public transportation is of upmost importance for the urban dwellers.  Unfortunately, rather than innovating, the light rail system which was unveiled within only a couple years of the first steel skyscraper, continues to require more maintenance and delayed commute times offsetting efficiency and prospective monetary gains.  Meanwhile, skyscrapers have reached what could not have previously been imagined only a century ago.

Figure 3 - Arata Isozaki City of the Sky (Ross, 1978)
With buildings innovating faster than infrastructure, “Tange reiterated that:  ‘By incorporating elements of space, speed, and drastic change in the physical environment, we created a method of structuring having elasticity and changeability” (Ross, 1978).  Following the concept of buildings evolving and devolving over time, towers were imagined with residential modules being “plugged” into the central structure with the intention that they could be disassembled just as easily.  In 1962, Arata Isozaki was working in Kenzo Tange’s office when he began producing drawings of his “City in
the Sky” (Figure 3) (Ross, 1978).
Although Isozaki was not a formal member of the Metabolist group, his ideas were inspired by the same source, Kenzo Tange.  Simultaneously, the Metabolist group was working on similar megastructures.  Kurokawa, the designer of the Nakagin Capsule Tower was working on the “Helix City” a series of structures which twisted like a double helix and was quite outwardly inspired by biology and experimental tensegrity structural systems.  Congruently, Kikutake was developing a series of drawings and designs for cylindrical floating cities.  Most of these initial charrettes and rough sketches became formal proposals, few proposals were realized, but one prototypical Metabolism structure remains today, The Nakagin Capsule Tower (Ross, 1978).
Koolhaas, R., Obrist, H. U., Ota, K., Westcott, J., & Daniell, T. (2011). Project Japan: Metabolism Talks.. (Vol. 100). Amsterdam: Taschen.
Ross, M. F. (1978). Beyond metabolism: The new Japanese architecture. NEW YORK: Architectural Record Books, McGraw-Hill Book Company(1978), 200 PP. 357 ILLUS.(General).

Skate Break: Final Thoughts

By Ryan Northcutt
            As the end of the semester nears, we are all in scramble to finish up any work. To say the least it’s getting crazy. But it’s important to keep pushing and stay positive and just work. But time to talk about something more interesting.
            As a final thought, I would like to talk about egress stairs. These fire rated monsters that fill up space that we wish we had are pretty annoying, but we need them. We think of these stairs as something solid and static. But the code really only limits so many aspects of them. There have been many breakthrough in technology that allows new features, but for the most part, cost comes into play which really drives us to have those solid concrete towers with efficiently laid out stairs. Louis Kahn once argued that these sorts of stairs are a waste of space, for they aren’t really all that useful. The question becomes how does this fire rated beasts become habitable space, and more importantly interesting. Well for starts, shapes of stairs and landings are a start to creating an architectural innovative egress circulation pattern. Louis Kahn made the argument that these stairs, which are merely boring should involve interaction spaces. Spaces for actions to happen within landings, allowing for conversations, resting points, or personal spaces. His description of these stairs is about a boy reading books off the shelf, in the stairwell. Its an odd thought and we might think, who wants to hang out in the stairwell. Its almost like eating next to the restroom or trashcan, nobody wants to be there but sometimes we have too. Well nobody really wants to be in the stairs, as they may be cramped and stuffy and cold and boring. It’s now about how do we change the typology of egress stairs and make them spaces that are used for circulation in emergencies, as well as a place to hang out. In many ways its almost genius. Its similar to a water cooler space, which is not intended to be a gather place, but that is just what happens. Why is that so? Well it all boils down to resources, but also proxemics, which drive a lot of spaces to becoming places of social interaction. This is an important part of architecture, and it is a heavy topic to think about, especially when we start talking about circulation and efficiency. Like any problem, there is a solution, and as creative thinkers we are adapt to creating solutions. Needless to say, we need to think about egress stairs and their typology.

Global Architecture Structure Model: Pati

By Sabin Chakradhar

Last week on Global Architecture class we had this assignment to make a physical model of the structure (or part of the structure) that belongs to non-western traditional architecture. I wanted to build something relating to the research paper that I was preparing for the same subject. I was writing the research paper on traditional Newari houses in Kathmandu valley, so I chose to build the ‘Pati’ which belong to Newari Style Architecture.
The word Pati generated from the Sanskrit word ‘Pattika’ which is a resting place for travelers. As well as being a shelter for travelers, it serves the closely interwoven Newari society living in its neighborhood, as a meeting place for games or social and religious gatherings. Sometimes it is also used as the place for women to do their laundry and even used as barn.
The Pati consist of the raised platform that is covered with the sloped roof. Some of the Patis are free standing and some are incorporated into a residential house or attached to an existing building like a lean-to and named dupat (two corner Pati). The layout of each Pati is practically identical and consists of a rectangular brick platform raised about 60cm and covered with wooden floorboards. As it is sited to overlook roads ponds and streams the front is always of a post and lintel construction. Generally the same construction is also used for he side walls. The rear wall is of solid brickwork, returning along each side for about 30cm to act as a brace for the rear wall.
To make the model, I used the 6mm thick balsa wood as it is roughly the thickness of the wooden posts for the scale of 1:25. The elevations and plan of a typical Pati was traced into AutoCAD from the book. From the digital drawings I prepared the surface development for each side and used the laser cutter from DFL to cut the balsa wood. All the pieces were then glue into right places to build the model of the Pati. Brick, Timber and Jhingati tiles are three main building materials used in Pati. To represent these different materials in the model, I used the laser engraving to give the texture and painted it with acrylic color to separate the materials.

Korn, W. (1979). The traditional architecture of the Kathmandu valley. Kathmandu: Ratna Pustak Bhandar.

The Taj Mahal

By Michael Young

If there ever was a structure built in the name of love, it was the Taj Mahal.  This building was also built as an expression of confident power and majesty.  It was designed and built based on the deep despair of the Moghul emperor after the death of his beloved wife. The structure is famous for its historical significance, the massive size and the exquisite use of materials. The Taj Mahal has been named one of the Seven Wonders of the World.   It is interesting to think back at the time of the concept and the construction of this magnificent structure, if Shah Jahan realized the significant impact and wondrous beauty it would have on so many people. The 17th century mausoleum was built in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. It sits on the banks of the Yamuna River and was commissioned in 1632 by the Moghul Emperor.  In addition to the Taj Mahal, the complex included a main gateway of red sandstone and a square garden divided into quarters by long pools of water, as well as a red sandstone mosque and an identical building called a jawab (or “mirror”) directly across from the mosque. The landscape architects at the time used Islamic features to create the gardens.  In Islam, four was the holiest of numbers and the so the gardens were laid out on a quadrate plan.  Two marble canals, each line with trees crossed in the center and divided it into four equal squares. The squares were divided into sixteen flowerbeds and four hundred flowers were planted.  The Taj Mahal stands in the middle of a massive marble platform that is 315 feet square.  At each corner are minarets.  These were used to call the faithful to prayer. They were slanted outward so that if something happened to them and they fell, they would not destroy the mausoleum.  In the center of the mausoleum, Mumtaz’s body was buried following Islamic tradition, lying north south with her face turned westward to Mecca. Although the mausoleum at a distance looks completely white, the marble is, in fact, extensively decorated with calligraphy, stone carving and inlay both inside and out. The world famous central dome is onion-shaped and stands 200 feet high.  The central chamber is made up of two stories of eight rooms with connecting passageways.  This is a traditional Mogul design called hasht behist, or eight paradises. Visitors coming to the Taj Mahal will see two tombs, called cenotaphs, in the center of the main chamber.  However, these are not the real tombs as the bodies of the emperor and his queen are buried in a small crypt beneath the main chamber.  Mamtaz Mahal’s crypt is directly in the center of the building, while Shah Jahan’s tomb is next to his wife’s

The Value of Foguang Temple

By Li Haoyang 

China has a long history. Lots of important and treasure things have lost during the history stream. Sometimes Chinese can only study and know some old time’s creative stuffs from the books. The discovery of the Foguang Temple has great meaning. First of all, the building itself has unmatched meaning. How a wood building survival to now during the 1200 years? The Dougong contribute to its survival. And the location of it also good for maintain it. The site of the temple is in the middle of the hill. It is so hard to go inside. By this case, temple is away from the people, also away from the war. The climate in the hill is great. Not too cold or too hot, especially not to moist. Luckily, we can touch it and do research of it today.
The Tang Dynasty is a prosperity country. Not only of the economy and the military, but also of the culture. At that time, the technique of bronze and silver and stone had development very fast. And the peace make artist have lots of time and opportunity to do the art works. (Akiyama, Ando, Matsubara, Okazaki & Sekino, 1968) But the paintings are easily broken in the 1000 years. So each extant painting is treasure. In Foguang Temple, There lots of painting on the wall. Interesting things, there are also some paintings from some later periods and some paintings are repaired or mimic by nowadays painters. There are compared together. Tang Dynasty’s painting is still the most beautiful one.
As long as Foguang Temple exists, we do not just rely on the books to feel the wisdom in the past.
Foguang Temple and with some other Tang Dynasty wood buildings together make it possible to finish the book Ying Zao Fa Shi in the Song Dynasty. As I mentioned in the introduction, Ying Zao Fa Shi play a very important role in the Chinese building history. The book is following the Foguang Temple and its same period building’s system. From that book, we can see the way to deal with the wooden building. But before the Foguang Temple and Nanchan Temple (The oldest extant wooden building) have been discovered. Almost all the temple in the China we know is after Song Dynasty. It means these wooden buildings are following the Ying Zao Fa Shi. But when people had known Foguang Temple, we can see the different between Foguang Temple and later building. We can see how Ying Zao Fa Shi written. In the first edition book, the system of structure is almost the same as the Foguang Temple. The book also had changed in the later time. But the main system is still from Foguang Temple. Only the size of Dougong had change a lot. And the standard of Dougong is also influence the later times. The dimension of one member of the Dougong - the width if the Gong or “arm” - was set as the module for determining the proportions of every structural member as well as that of the entire building. The modular is classified into a certain number of “sizes” or “classes” for buildings of different sizes and functions. By employing this modular system in the process of designing, the architect’s work is much simplified and structural members could be prefabricated elsewhere and then assembled at the building site. Certainly, judging from the scientific standards of today, this rather rudimentary system could stand no comparison with the modular, prefabrication, standardization and typification of today. Nevertheless, it may justly be called an elementary prototype of the modern method. (Liang, 2011, P10)

Research Paper Discussion

By Sean Williamson

The last blog of the semester! Time has flown by! Recently I have been working on a research paper for Dr. Davey’s ARC 532 class. This paper involved 20 pages of research of the city in Yucatan Mexico known as Chichén Itza. With all the time I spent working on this paper, I thought it would be worth discussing a little bit.

Within the northern region of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico on a limestone plateau lies the relics of Chichén Itzá, once one of the Maya’s most powerful cities. The people responsible for the development of this 5 square mile city are the Mayans (Encyclopedia Britannica).

The Maya people were skilled farmers and developed a very sophisticated written language, with some historians thinking it may have been the first written language native to the Americas (History). A well-ordered social class system was also developed by the Maya’s with trade throughout a network of cities that went as far north as Central Mexico and as far south as Panama (History). They were also expert mathematicians, with their numbering system including the concept of zero, an idea unknown to the ancient Greeks (History). The Maya used their mathematical knowledge along with celestial observations to finesse a calendar created by the Olmecs (a culture from the Mexican Gulf Coast) and to create monuments to observe and commemorate movements of the sun, the moon, and Venus (History). Spectacular examples of these monuments can still be seen at Chichén Itzá.

Chichén Itzá's architecture includes pyramids, an astronomical observatory, platforms, wells, ball courts, plazas, and residential areas. Its mammoth Maya-Toltec style architecture was developed largely during the Terminal Classic, a period beginning around 800 A.D. and extending possibly as late as 1050 A.D. (Aveni, 2004). There are numerous structures at Chichén Itza that incorporate certain calendrical and astronomical principles into their architectural plans (Herrera, 2008). One example of the Maya’s incorporating astronomical principles into their architectural plans is the Pyramid of Kukulcan, which was recently voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World (Herrera, 2008). This mystery of the Mayan culture brings an estimated 1.2 million tourists to Chichén Itza each year (Cobos).

The city has been traditionally divided into two distinct parts and periods, even though there is some overlap both in time and design (Cartwright, M.). The earliest, to the south, is native Maya dating to the Epiclassic period (800-1000 AD) with buildings displaying both the distinct 'Puuc' architectural style and Maya hieroglyphs (Cartwright, M.). The plan is more spread out than the north part of the city and, constructed on a roughly north-south axis, may reflect the course of the Xtoloc Cenote water source. The second part of the city has been traditionally dated to 1000-1200 AD and is more mysterious, creating one of the most continuous debates in Mesoamerican archaeology (Cartwright, 2014). Built in the Florescent style and along a more ordered plan, it displays many hallmarks of the Toltec civilization, leading scholars to believe that they either conquered Chichén Itza as they expanded their empire from their capital Tula over 1,000 km away, or there was some sort of cultural and trade sharing between the two areas (Cartwright, 2014). Some architecture and relief sculptures found at both sites include warrior columns, quetzal-feathered rattlesnakes, the clothing of subjects, chacmools (sacrificial basins in the form of a reclining person), atlantides (support columns in the form of standing males), the representation of certain animals, a tzompantli (sacrificial skull rack), Tlaloc (the rain god) incense burners, and personal names represented by glyphs which are present at both sites but which are not Mayan (Cartwright, 2014).

Reference Page

Aveni, A., Milbrath, S., & Lope, P. (2004). Chichén Itzá's Legacy in the Astronomically Oriented Architecture of Mayapán. The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Cartwright, M. (2014). Chichén Itza. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from

Chichén Itzá. (2014). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, from

Cobos, R., & Moll, R. Ancient Climate and Archaeology: Uxmal, Chichén Itza, and Their Collapse at the End of ´ the Terminal Classic Period. 56-71.

Herrera, A. (2008). Chichén Itza. Oas.

Mesoamerican Ballcourts

By Patrick Londrigan

The origins of the Mesoamerican ballgame appear in a post-Classic account that relates an ancient Quiche Maya creation myth. The ballgame in Popul Vuh is depicted in affiliation with a “cosmological narrative from Highland Guatemala […] revealing a number of the mythical underpinnings of the game. (Grimm, 2008, p. 46)  The game was played by roughly all adolescent and adult males, from the noblest of men down to the simple commoner.  It is understood that the game became popular because the provinces on the gulf coast would annual send 16,000 rubber balls as a royal tribute. (Scarborough, 1991, p. 9)
Any level surface might be used as a playing field, just like today.  Masonry courts were built only in the main towns or large neighborhoods.  These courts were often located in town near the market or civic-ceremonial complex.  Masonry courts were often constructed by the ruler, other members of the upper class, or high ranking servants for use first by the noble and second by the commoners. (Scarborough, 1991, p. 9)  It is said that nobles would have skilled “professional” players who were then pitted against each other for the nobles to view on a feast day.
Mesoamerican ballgames are played between two opposing teams, using a rubber ball, with anywhere from two to eleven players per team.  Ulama is the most common game and hitting the ball with the hips, buttocks, thighs or knees is how it is played.  Other versions of the game include handball which is played on a longer, more narrow courts with a thick glove; “bat ball” is played like handball but with bats that have an oblong trunk with a perpendicular handle; Purepecha trap ball which is played like modern day field hockey; and Purepecha fire trap ball wherein the ball is doused in oil and lit on fire. (Grimm, 2008, p. 48)  The main objective of the game is to get the ball from one end of the court to the other, though all of the games rules differ from region to region.  These games are comparable to modern day ballgames such as basketball, football, soccer, and hockey.  However, the game was not always used for sport, but also as a substitution for war and occasionally to mediate quarrels.
Ballcourts are generally in the shape of an “I.” The main court is at the center with two courts perpendicular at each end that forms the “I.  Some courts will only have one court perpendicular on an end, creating a “T.”  The sizes of these courts vary but the average ballcourt is 37 meters long by 9 meters wide. (Grimm, 2008, p. 50)  All of these courts had benches flanking the central alley, the center court, and rings set in the upper part of the lateral wall. (Scarborough, 1991, p. 10)  That main alleyway would frequently have vertical or sloping sides often having three markers with one at each end zone and one at the center.  However, the shaft-tombs of Colima have revealed not all ballcourts are bound by architecture, many ballgame figurines have been found where no ballcourts have been discovered.  It is believed that the game in Colima was played on low-lying, open fields with sloped embankments 
for walls. (Grimm, 2008, p. 50)