Article

Metabolism: Utopian Urbanism and the Japanese Modern Architecture Movement

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

Abstract

The Fukushima catastrophe has led to important practical and conceptual shifts in contemporary Japanese architecture which in turn has led to a re-evaluation of the influential 1960s Japanese modern architecture movement, Metabolism. The Metabolists had the ambition to create a new Japanese society through techno-utopian city planning. The new generation of Japanese architects, after the Fukushima event, no longer seek evolutionally social change; rather, the disaster has made them re-consider what architecture is and what architects can do for people who had everything snatched from them by technology (nuclear power station) and nature (earthquake and tsunami). Drawing on the architectural projects of Tange Kenzo and Metabolists in the 1960s and Ito Toyo’s ‘Home-for-All project’ in 2011, the paper explores this major paradigm shift in Japanese architectural theory and practices.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

... In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol international agreement was signed to stabilize Greenhouse Gas atmospheric concentrations to prevent dangerous interference in the climate system [28]. As a consequence, projects started to focus The 1960s also brought the Japanese Metabolists' manifesto published by Kisho Kurokawa and others [9,21,25]. The central idea was the individual capsule-movable, prefabricated and plugged into a structural service core. ...
... The blocks were too heavy to be easily installed or relocated, had too many variations, and required specific tools, towering cranes and intensive labor [9]. The 1960s also brought the Japanese Metabolists' manifesto published by Kisho Kurokawa and others [9,21,25]. The central idea was the individual capsule-movable, prefabricated and plugged into a structural service core. ...
... Ironically, the building has never been changed or extracted from the core, and is deteriorated [9]. Kurokawa even claimed that his high technology "meta-architecture," with its notion of natural organic life-cycles, introduced an ecological system into architecture [9,25]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Buildings are being demolished without taking into the account the waste generated, and the housing shortage problem is getting more critical as cities are growing and the demand for built space and the use of resources are increasing. Architectural projects have been using prefabrication and modular systems to solve these problems. However, there is an absence of structures that can be disassembled and reused when the structure’s life ran its course. This paper presents three building prototypes of new recyclable architectural typologies: (i) a Slab prototype designed as a shelf structure where wooden housing modules can be plugged in and out, (ii) a Tower prototype allowing for an easy change of layout and use of different floors and (iii) a Demountable prototype characterized by the entire demountability of the building. These typologies combine modularity, flexibility, and disassembling to address the increasing demands for multi-use, re-usable and resource-efficient constructions. Design, drawings, plans, and 3D models are developed, tested and analyzed as a part of the research. The results show that the implementation of the recyclable architectural concept at the first design stage is feasible and realistic, and ensures the adaptation through time, increases life span, usability and the material reusability, while avoiding demolition, which in turn reduces the construction waste and, consequently, the CO2 emissions.
... As Tomoko Tamari remarks, in "Metabolism: Utopian Urbanism and the Japanese Modern Architecture Movement", "the Metabolists sought to promote the idea that the city could be regarded as a supra-individual organism which could generate its own autopoetic momentum/force". Tamari also notes that the "Metabolists sought to establish a higher and more influential social status for architects who could reinvent the concept of modern architecture" [39] (p. 203). ...
... The former, as Tamari highlights, refers to metabolism, while the latter refer to "the function of metabolism". These terms served to express their understanding of the city as "an organic entity which has the function of metabolism" [39] (p. 206). ...
... A paradox that characterizes the approaches of the Metabolists and has been highlighted by Tamari is the fact that "[a]lthough they embraced people's autonomy and freedom in the future society, their major concept, megastructure, was accompanied by the idea of a central administrative system where professional architects could play a key role in designing and controlling urban life" [39] (p. 214). ...
Article
Full-text available
Takis Zenetos was enthusiastic about the idea of working from home, and believed that both architecture and urban planning should be reshaped in order to respond to this. He supported the design of special public spaces in residential units, aiming to accommodate the inhabitants during working hours. This article argues that Zenetos’s design for “Electronic Urbanism” was more prophetic, and more pragmatic, than his peers such as Archigram and Constant Nieuwenhuys. Despite the fact that they shared an optimism towards technological developments and megastructure, a main difference between Zenetos’s view and the perspectives of his peers is his rejection of a generalised enthusiasm concerning increasing mobility of people. In opposition with Archigram, Zenetos insisted in minimizing citizens’ mobility and supported the replacement of daily transport with the use advanced information technologies, using terms such as “tele-activity”. Zenetos was convinced that “Electronic Urbanism” would help citizens save the time that they normally used to commute to work, and would allow them to spend this time on more creative activities, at or near their homes. The main interest of “Electronic Urbanism” lies in the fact that it not only constitutes an artistic contribution to experimental architecture, but is also characterized by a new social vision, promising to resynchronize practices of daily life. An aspect that is also examined is the relationship of Zenetos’s ideas and those of the so-called Metabolists in the 1960s in Japan, including Kenzo Tange’s conception of megastructures. Zenetos’s thought is very topical considering the ongoing debates about the advanced information society, especially regarding the social concerns of surveillance, governance, and sovereignty within the context of Big Data. His conception of “tele-activities” provides a fertile terrain for reflecting on potential implications and insights concerning home-office conditions not only within the context of the current pandemic situation but beyond it as well.
... However, architects paradoxically need to make a plan for the city. Although they embraced people's autonomy and freedom in the future society, their major concept, megastructure, was accompanied by the idea of a central administrative system where professional architects could play a key role in designing and controlling urban life" [40] (p. 214) Buildings 2022, 12, x FOR PEER REVIEW 12 of 22 infrastructures and the freedom of the individual" [11] (p.280). ...
... However, architects paradoxically need to make a plan for the city. Although they embraced people's autonomy and freedom in the future society, their major concept, megastructure, was accompanied by the idea of a central administrative system where professional architects could play a key role in designing and controlling urban life" [40] (p.214). 1. Early-stage platform construction: transportation core plus the basic column network system 2. Low-carbon companies are introduced during the incubation period, and the construction space is in its infancy 3. The growth of low-carbon enterprises is during the incubation period, and there are emergence of supporting facilities, such as residences and offices, and the formation of architectural space 4. Low-carbon enterprises in the growth period will further be developed, and supporting facilities, such as residences and offices, will grow proportionally 5. Low-carbon companies in the mature period will expand further, and the building functional space will continue to grow and gradually improve 6. Low-carbon enterprises continue to operate during the stable period, the building function ratio is balanced, and the spatial shape is stable (Source: drawn by the author). ...
Article
Full-text available
Several studies have linked urban metabolism with sustainable development goals, but few studies have addressed how architectural design could contribute to the linkage. Japanese Architectural Metabolism promotes the empowering of individuals and encourages spontaneous growth through urban metabolism. However, Architectural Metabolism has lacked (1) links with sustainable urban development goals, (2) realistic and powerful strategies, and (3) the ability to keep up with information technology. Whether and how architectural design can contribute to sustainable and spontaneous urban growth remains unclear. This paper presents case studies of the growth and renewal of formal and informal urban organisms in East Asia. The cases reveal that sustainable spontaneous urban growth should be linked with a strong governance system as well as adaptive architectural and construction technology that is easy to master by users. This paper argues that the conditional basis of contemporary Chinese urban development can support the spontaneous growth of architecture. Finally, a design strategy is proposed that reconstructs participatory co-construction among the government, social investors, and users with information and adaptive construction technology. Its purpose is to realize the orderly metabolism and spontaneous growth of buildings and achieve economically, socially, and ecologically sustainable development.
... The blocks were too heavy to be easily installed or relocated, had too many variations, and required specific tools, towering cranes and intensive labor [9]. The 1960s also brought the Japanese Metabolists' manifesto published by Kisho Kurokawa and others [9,21,25]. The central idea was the individual capsule-movable, prefabricated and plugged into a structural service core. ...
... Ironically, the building has never been changed or extracted from the core, and is deteriorated [9]. Kurokawa even claimed that his high technology -metaarchitecture,‖ with its notion of natural organic life-cycles, introduced an ecological system into architecture [9,25]. ...
... The relationship between man and nature, how he interacts with his surrounding environment, from the very early s tages of his career, has been a long-las ting concern for Ito. He has taken issue with the prevalent preoccupation with the lavish city-based lifes tyle and claimed that architects should no longer follow the development of mega-cities, but are committed to creating simple communal spaces where individuals can interact, function, and perform daily practices (Tamari, 2014). He, therefore, sugges ts that architects ought to s tart by ques tioning how we relate to nature, our surrounding world, and rethinking the people or community that architects are always arguing for, and asking, aren't they simply turning into an abs tract scheme? ...
Article
Full-text available
ABS TRACT: Properly inves tigating the potential of nature in the formation of architectural concepts needs a theoretical framework in which its analytical components can explain the methods of utilization of nature. Although some attempts have been made in this regard, considering the missing elements, there is s till a significant gap in the literature and a s tudy for introducing a more comprehensive theoretical framework has yet to be conducted. The aim of this s tudy is, therefore, firs tly, to present a theoretical framework that can explain the role of nature in the creation of architectural concepts by its detailed factors and, secondly, to apply this framework for inves tigating nature-inspired works of Toyo Ito. Accordingly, this documentary paper is based on a theoretical approach supported mainly by the outcomes of a literature review and case s tudy analysis, which utilizes the descriptive-analytical method. For the case s tudy part, projects were selected from various scales and functions to ensure proper evaluation. Both qualitative and quantitative tactics have been used in data analysis. Findings demons trated that the highes t rate in regards to the itemized factors of the Theoretical Framework of the s tudy relates to 'Integration of natural elements in spatial articulation' and the lowes t rate corresponds to 'Usage of material in their raw and brutal s tate'. Moreover, though the highes t level of utilization of nature among the cases, is related to 'Grin Grin', a large-scale project, yet considering all the frequencies, it can be argued that the larger scale does not necessarily imply the higher frequency.
... Although the plan was never realized, at this point it was acknowledged and to some extend accepted by the public. But it must be noted that this success was achieved in the pre-internet society (see Tamari, 2014). 6 Miah et al. note that "we do not claim that journalism is de-professionalised via new media, as this would neglect the advanced skills, ethics and integrity of so-called citizen journalists. ...
Article
Olympic stadia are often regarded as political showcases stemming from a range of influences: the host nation's international politics, the interests of transnational capitalism, site‐specific meanings, and the power of iconic architecture. By examining the 2020 Tokyo Olympic main stadium as a case study, this article analyzes the controversial Zaha Hadid Tokyo stadium design in relation to the Japanese national branding initiative. The article argues that branding should be seen as part of an economic and cultural system that seems to enhance the global value of iconic architects and their buildings. Yet the power of brands can be understood as contingent. Their ambivalent nature entails a tension between exclusiveness and banality; additionally, branded architects may find it difficult to work across the different regimes of global and local politics, and they are of course also constrained by the logic of neoliberal transnational capitalism. By investigating a major global branded architect, Zaha Hadid, the article considers why a new image of Japan could not be adequately created by Hadid's aesthetics and narratives of the Olympic stadium, which could have been regarded as a national cultural legacy. The article then discusses the contested processes of image‐making and narrative creation in relation to the representation of Japan in contemporary Olympic culture. The article concludes with an examination of Kengo Kuma's architecture language in his 2020 Tokyo Olympics stadium design.
... Ongoing evaluation on social change has significant effect too on retail performance. Retail infrastructure may be considered as co-habitation of technology & nature (Tamari, 2014;Leonard, 2007;Martinez-Alier, 2007). Analogically, sustainability serves as the entropy for envirosocio-economic sustenance of retail infrastructure. ...
... Architecture was one of the major components in the implementation of a new life and environment for Japanese society. The principle of architecture was defined as a social mission and a public realm [40]. Therefore, in1960, an architectural manifesto named Metabolism 1960: The Proposals for New Urbanism was introduced by a group of significant designers and architects at the World Design Conference in Tokyo [41]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Over decades, cities have undergone rapid urbanization and uncontrolled urban growth. The need for future cities to operate as adaptable complex systems has generated an interest in the self-organizing resilient city. The main aim of the study is to find ways of conceptualizing self-organizing the resilient city as an emerging field of research for urban design and architectural theory. Based on these assumptions, an integrated relationship between architecture and urban design are seen as potential catalysts for absorbing the uncertainty and disturbances of urban growth and preparing the structure, function, and identity of a city as a self-organizing system that can continuously and freely adapt to changes. The paper seeks to determine the role of architecture in urban design as a main key for facilitating a self-organizing system. A systematic theoretical research method was used to describe resilience theory and self-organizing systems within an adaptive cycle and hierarchical thinking across scales. The study then sought to identify the earliest point that architectural theory conceptualized future cities from the perspective of self-organizing systems. The Metabolism movement was chosen to provide a basis for the discussion of the study. Cities as self-organizing systems need to be considered through cross-scale interactions. For a self-organizing resilient city, the inter-reliance between architecture and urban design drive the main inputs to the system.
... After rejecting their present they return to the perceived origins: to the nature and traditional Japanese culture of maintenance of wooden architecture. According to Tamari (2014), the concept of metabolism is deeply linked with resembling the natural processes and development of living organisms: "the city could be regarded as a supra-individual organism which could generate its own autopoietic momentum/force." The metabolism notion of the city as a process (Lin, 2016) can be related both with the natural analogies and the Japanese traditional culture of wooden architecture maintenance through replacement, the proposed mass production and systematic quality control of materials can be viewed in this light as well. ...
Article
Purpose The purpose of the article is to develop the concept of forecasting futures using the past by integrating the concept of heritage in it. Design/methodology/approach This paper demonstrates the process of development of the total heritage approach and its application. The process consists of the following steps: the review of the selected urban life visions and models of the past from prehistoric Catalhoyuk settlement up to the 20th century Japanese Metabolism to trace the examples of complex problem-solving and singularity presence that can be used for horizon scanning for the futures of urbanism; the development of total heritage approach based on the further analysis of selected examples demonstrating even unintentional presence of heritage in the construction of the futures; application of the total heritage approach for the modeling the futures of urbanism and illustrating it with the scenario of the future eopolis as the premise for cultural urban singularity. Findings This paper demonstrates the process of development of the total heritage approach and its application. The process consists of the following steps: the review of selected historic urban utopias to trace the principal scheme, how the future or ideal visions of urbanism were constructed; the development of total heritage approach based on the further analysis of Thomas More Utopia and Neolithic Catalhoyuk settlement demonstrating even unintentional presence of heritage in the construction of the futures; application of the total heritage approach for the modeling the futures of urbanism and illustrating it with the scenario of the future eopolis as the premise for cultural urban singularity. Originality/value The total heritage approach, developed in this research, presents heritage as the determinant structure or ethical imperative for sustainable future development toward cultural urban singularity.
... The plug-in concept was imagined by Le Corbusier around the 1950s when he designed the Unité d'habitation (Cité Radieuse) [21] although it has never been realized in any of his buildings. The plug-in concept involves a primary structure, in which prefabricated housing units are slotted, whereas Metabolism [22] is a Japanese architectural movement established in the late 1950s, combining megastructures with the principles of biological growth, in order to allow buildings to expand/shrink. As a result, the Slab building is composed of a permanent reinforced concrete structure named shelf-structure, and several flexible removable timber modules used as housing units, as presented in Section 3. A two-fold study was carried out on the Slab building. ...
Article
Full-text available
Modular buildings offer faster construction process, provide better construction quality, allow reducing construction waste and are potentially flexible. Frames of modular units can be made of metal, timber, concrete or mixed materials but lightweight structures do not always allow erecting high-rise buildings and generally present a higher risk of overheating and/or overcooling. To reconcile these pros and cons, a typology of modular building called Slab was designed by a group of architects. The building is composed on the one hand of a permanent concrete structure named shelf-structure and on the other hand of several flexible removable timber modular units, also known as modules. The shelf-structure will host the common utility rooms and will serve as docking infrastructure for the housing modules. To provide high flexibility, the Slab building was designed to adapt to any orientation and location in Luxembourg. An energy concept and a HVAC systems design has been developed for the Slab building. Furthermore, a two-fold sustainability analysis was carried out. The first part of the analysis regards the determination of the minimum required wall thicknesses of the modules in accordance with Luxembourgish regulatory requirements, although the current regulation does not yet consider the Slab building typology. The second part, which is the subject of this paper, is thermal comfort assessment, more precisely, summertime overheating risk assessment of these modules, in compliance with Luxembourgish standard. In this regard, dynamic thermal simulations have been realized on two module variants; the first fulfills the passive house requirements, and the second—the current requirements for building permit application, which in principle corresponds to low energy house requirements. Simulations showed that with adequate solar shading and reinforced natural ventilation by window opening, overheating risk could be avoided for the normal residential use scenario for both module variants.
... The sixties also delivered the capsule architecture from Japanese Metabolism. The central idea is that the building would grow by plugging individually prefabricated and modular capsules into a structural service core, materialized in the Nakagin Capsule Tower by Kurokawa (1970Kurokawa ( -1972 in Tokyo [15][16] [20]. Paradoxically, the building is deteriorating and has never been altered or the modules extracted from the core [16]. ...
... The relationship between man and nature, how he interacts with his surrounding environment, from the very early stages of his career, has been a long-lasting concern for Ito. He has taken issue with the prevalent preoccupation with the lavish city-based lifestyle and claimed that architects should no longer follow the development of mega-cities, but are committed to creating simple communal spaces where individuals can interact, function, and perform daily practices (Tamari, 2014). He, therefore, suggests that architects ought to start by questioning how we relate to nature, our surrounding world, and rethinking the people or community that architects are always arguing for, and asking, aren't they simply turning into an abstract scheme? ...
Article
Properly investigating the potential of nature in the formation of architectural concepts needs a theoretical framework in which its analytical components can explain the methods of utilization of nature. Although some attempts have been made in this regard, considering the missing elements, there is still a significant gap in the literature and a study for introducing a more comprehensive theoretical framework has yet to be conducted. The aim of this study is, therefore, firstly, to present a theoretical framework that can explain the role of nature in the creation of architectural concepts by its detailed factors and, secondly, to apply this framework for investigating nature-inspired works of Toyo Ito. Accordingly, this documentary paper is based on a theoretical approach supported mainly by the outcomes of a literature review and case study analysis, which utilizes the descriptive-analytical method. For the case study part, projects were selected from various scales and functions to ensure proper evaluation. Both qualitative and quantitative tactics have been used in data analysis. Findings demonstrated that the highest rate in regards to the itemized factors of the Theoretical Framework of the study relates to 'Integration of natural elements in spatial articulation' and the lowest rate corresponds to 'Usage of material in their raw and brutal state'. Moreover, though the highest level of utilization of nature among the cases, is related to 'Grin Grin', a large-scale project, yet considering all the frequencies, it can be argued that the larger scale does not necessarily imply the higher frequency.
Article
This article traces how the ‘wet’ market was integrated into the infrastructure of public housing estates in Hong Kong through modularization from 1969 to 1975. This includes how spatial modularization concepts extended into administration and management, incorporating responsibilities and categories of goods that ultimately reflected colonial ideas of health, food hygiene and social and spatial order. In doing so, this article theorizes how the modular market embodied the ways colonial government departments, architects and managers navigated notions of the materiality of ‘wetness’ in the market through its design in response to management and customer needs, but nevertheless how consumers found ways to re-narrate such spaces through maintaining ‘wet’ cultural exchanges and practices. Using government documents and photographs, this article combines a design historical approach to materiality with empirical evidence to expand on histories and practices of the ‘wet market’, bringing the everyday discourses of modernity in Hong Kong to the fore.
Article
Full-text available
Master plans have long been criticized by critical planners who have argued in favour of more strategic, collaborative and relational forms of spatial planning that can more adequately respond to local needs and realities, especially in the context of the global South. Rather than critiquing master planning, this paper seeks to interrogate its recent rise in urban Africa. Building on a review of international planning trajectories, the paper seeks to challenge dominant narratives in the Western literature around the rise and decline of master planning. Planning experiences from across the African continent illustrate how master planning was a limited practice under colonialism and emerged more strongly in early post-colonial years, while persisting through a quiet period of planning and proliferating in recent times. By exploring the diversity in the influences and approaches to master planning for new and existing cities in Africa over time, the paper positions master planning as the product of a complex array of transnational circuits and multiple local actors and ambitions which intersect across different scales. The study of master planning should therefore be considered as an important entry point into understanding and rethinking the contemporary politics of urban planning, implementation, and development in Africa.
Article
Full-text available
The low energy symbiosis for development metabolism is reviewed for its potential to enhance the implementability of the Sustainable Development Goals. Metabolism is the carrying capacity limit of rural-urban or rurban eco-systems, that is self-replenishable through endurability drawn from metabolic processes. This research paper probes the symbiotic common-ground for sustainability for the shared value-based policy metabolism, deployed on emerging Asia. The unified motivation would be to co-implement quantum innovations and adaptations on governance mechanisms to usher pathways on symbiosis for sustainability. Intended outcomes are budgeting social metabolism, symbiotic scale-up that would attain efficiency and practicality. An important destination is trust renaissance developed on common-ground challenges facing the aspirational low carbon Energy-Asia. This conceptual paper posits a dual aimed methodology. (i) Where low carbon Energy-Asia would like to be for symbiotic common-ground for sustainability through trust renaissance and, (ii) what shared value policy trajectory should be plugged-in for healthy metabolism into their symbiotic development strategy. The unified motivation would be to co-implement quantum innovations and adaptations on governance mechanisms to usher pathways on symbiosis for sustainability.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper seeks to locate intersections and contradictions between Metabolism, a movement born from the visions of Japanese architects from the late 1950s, and design for disaster relief in today’s world. Based on a review of Kiyonori Kikutake’s projects, as examples, the Sky house, Tower Shape Community, both of 1958; the Marine City of 1963; Tokyo Bay Project as well as the Koto Project of 1961, which was specially designed to withstand disasters, it can show the early history of the place of sustainability in emergency design. Also the critique of modernist ideologies, especially narrated by Reyner Banham and other contemporary authors who have published articles about the difficulty of applying megastructures in the reality of that time. Another relevant aspect is the analysis of the concepts such as modularity, interchangeability and expansiveness present in capsule design and in adaptive pluggable megastructures. The questions that the article will seek to answer are: which aspects of construction could be widely applied in the emergency context? What principles could be adopted to rebuild cities devastated by natural disasters, from the perspective of environmental concerns? After technological or natural disasters, the visions of the future could be utopian or dystopian places.
Article
Full-text available
This article provides a framework by way of introduction to the special section, 'The Urban Problematic II'. It introduces a new selection of papers contributing to the continuing project of interrogating concepts, processes and practices associated with contemporary forms of urban life. The article focuses in particular on the problem of infrastructure in relation to questions of urban politics and especially remarks on the emergence of a kind of thinking in which the separation of notions of material infrastructure from those of the social or cultural sphere can no longer be usefully maintained. The essays in the section cumulatively address the issue of an emergent hybridity of urban elements: the virtual and the material, the social and the technical, the political and the instrumental, the vertical and the horizontal. The spectacle of contemporary political activism and dissent emerges in the transformation of social and urban space.
Article
Full-text available
This article provides a framework by way of introduction to the special section, ‘The Urban Problematic II’. It introduces a new selection of papers contributing to the continuing project of interrogating concepts, processes and practices associated with contemporary forms of urban life. The article focuses in particular on the problem of infrastructure in relation to questions of urban politics and especially remarks on the emergence of a kind of thinking in which the separation of notions of material infrastructure from those of the social or cultural sphere can no longer be usefully maintained. The essays in the section cumulatively address the issue of an emergent hybridity of urban elements: the virtual and the material, the social and the technical, the political and the instrumental, the vertical and the horizontal. The spectacle of contemporary political activism and dissent emerges in the transformation of social and urban space.
Article
Metabolism, the Japanese architectural avant-garde movement of the 1960s, profoundly influenced contemporary architecture and urbanism. This book focuses on the Metabolists' utopian concept of the city and investigates the design and political implications of their visionary planning in the postwar society. At the root of the group's urban utopias was a particular biotechical notion of the city as an organic process. It stood in opposition to the Modernist view of city design and led to such radical design concepts as marine civilization and artificial terrains, which embodied the metabolists' ideals of social change. Tracing the evolution of Metabolism from its inception at the 1960 World Design Conference to its spectacular swansong at the Osaka World Exposition in 1970, this book situates Metabolism in the context of Japan's mass urban reconstruction, economic miracle, and socio-political reorientation. This new study will interest architectural and urban historians, architects and all those interested in avant-garde design and Japanese architecture.
Article
A new wave of smart-city projects is underway that proposes to deploy sensor-based ubiquitous computing across urban infrastructures and mobile devices to achieve greater sustainability. But in what ways do these smart and sustainable cities give rise to distinct material-political arrangements and practices that potentially delimit urban 'citizenship' to a series of actions focused on monitoring and managing data? And what are the implications of computationally organized distributions of environmental governance that are programmed for distinct functionalities and are managed by corporate and state actors that engage with cities as datasets to be manipulated? In this paper I discuss the ways in which smart-city proposals might be understood through processes of environmentality or the distribution of governance within and through environments and environmental technologies. I do this by working through an early and formative smart-city design proposal, the Connected Sustainable Cities (CSC) project, developed by MIT and Cisco within the Connected Urban Development initiative between 2007 and 2008. Revisiting and reworking Foucault's notion of environmentality in the context of the CSC smart-city design proposal, I advance an approach to environmentality that deals not with the production of environmental subjects, but rather with the specific spatial- material distribution and relationality of power through environments, technologies, and ways of life. By updating and advancing environmentality through a discussion of computational urbanisms, I consider how practices and operations of citizenship emerge that are a critical part of the imaginings of smart and sustainable cities. This reversioning of environmentality through the smart city recasts who or what counts as a 'citizen' and attends to the ways in which citizenship is articulated environmentally through the distribution and feedback of monitoring and urban data practices, rather than through governable subjects or populations.
Article
When people inhabit a city, they situate themselves and are situated through the intersections of infrastructure and technical systems, and the particular domains and modalities of occupation - settlement and work - that are configured by them. At the same time, people are also inhabited by the city, as a kind of possession, endowment, and series of conundrums. People figure themselves out through figuring arrangements of materials, of designing what is available to them in formats and positions that enable them particular vantage points and ways of doing things. What it is possible for people to do with each other is largely a question of what it is that exists between them, and how this 'between' can be shaped as active points of reference, connection and anchorage. Infrastructure exerts a force - not simply in the materials and energies it avails, but also the way it attracts people, draws them in, coalesces and expends their capacities. If territory is a bundle of political technologies for measuring, administering and regulating the scope of what it is possible to do in the city, then other inventive political technologies are also at work in the making of urban life.
Article
In a modern, calculative world, the techniques of tracking are everywhere in the ascendant. Enhanced by algorithmic procedures and analytics, they have been incorporated into distributed network systems, augmented by new sensing and locationing technologies, and embedded into mobile devices, urban structures and environments. Simultaneously, new practices of tracking and sensing have emerged across the consumer, state and corporate sectors. These practices are amplified in the case of megacities as they strive to keep pace with rapid urban development. All movement is subordinated to a condition of 'calculative mobilization’, whereby the urban realm is understood through the spatialization of algorithmic operations. And yet, due to their unique large- and multi-scaled accumulations of data-enhanced actors and their complex, stratified modes of proximity and interoperable relationality, the particular densities of megacities challenge conventional spatial formats of movement and positioning. This article offers new formats of analysis for these calculative practices and the agential and ontological status of the hybrid urban entities that they register and engender. It also offers new structuring principles and political orientations, which are particularly urgent as we witness the ascendance of 'Spatial Data Infrastructures’ (SDIs) that are often promoted as participatory and inclusive while remaining largely inaccessible, pursuing proprietary aims, and infused with the potential not only to protect and inform but also to violate.
Article
This article tackles an old, classical problem, which is acquiring a new epochal relevance with the techno-aesthetic processing of form and substance, expression and content. The field of digital architecture is embarked in the ancient controversy between the line and the curve, binary communication and fuzzy logic. Since the 1990s, the speculative qualities of digital architecture have exposed spatial design to the qualities of growing or breeding, rather than planning. However, such qualities still deploy the tension between discrete spaces and continual curving. In this context, the article suggests the computational coexistence of discrete coding with continual morphing, defying any easy resolution for an aesthetic of continuity or discontinuity, the superiority of the analog or the meta-logic of the digital. The metaphysical dimension of such coexistence needs to include the abstract capacities of experiencing the transition from one state to another as the registering of algorithmic processing. Computation is intrinsic to microperceptions, incomputable quantities deploying the infectious property of the digital code. The article draws on the digital architecture of Greg Lynn to explore whether the computational nature of the digital calculus has the potential to challenge the bifurcation between the biological and the mathematical, the physical and the mental.
Article
Utopian thinking, and utopias as a genre, flourished as forms of the imaginary until recently. The emergence of the genre, with Thomas More, emphasizing spatial arrangement and with Louis-Sébastien Mercier invoking future orientation, I argue, is illuminated by placing them next to the economic enclosures of their time. (I treat the connection of enclosures and utopias as both a literary conceit and as an elective affinity.) Their utopias, however, closed off both the individual and time from the capitalist changes around them, allowing for little or no variation or expression of self. Thus, their imagined virtuous societies actually sought to foreclose the future and other spaces. The paradox is that capitalist development, with its admitted inequities and horrors, favored an expansive self and vital societies, which carry with them their own virtues. In spite of the ameliorative tendencies of utopias, their limitations, that is, their closed-mindedness, slowly but surely discredited the genre itself. Its place has been taken today by science fiction, futurist studies and the exercise of the imaginary in terms of social science.