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The Metabolist Imagination

Visions of the City in Postwar Japanese Architecture and Science Fiction

2020
Author:

William O. Gardner

The Metabolist Imagination

Japan’s postwar urban imagination through the Metabolism architecture movement and visionary science fiction authors


William O. Gardner explores the unique Metabolism movement, which allied with science fiction authors to foresee the global cities that would emerge in the postwar era. These studies are underscored by Gardner’s insightful approach—treating architecture as a form of speculative fiction while positioning science fiction as an intervention into urban design—making it a necessary read for today’s visionaries.

The devastation of the Second World War gave rise to imaginations both utopian and apocalyptic. In Japan, a fascinating confluence of architects and science fiction writers took advantage of this space to begin remaking urban design. In The Metabolist Imagination, William O. Gardner explores the unique Metabolism movement, which allied with science fiction authors to foresee the global cities that would emerge in the postwar era.

 

This first comparative study of postwar Japanese architecture and science fiction builds on the resurgence of interest in Metabolist architecture while establishing new directions for exploration. Gardner focuses on how these innovators created unique versions of shared concepts—including futurity, megastructures, capsules, and cybercities—making lasting contributions that resonate with contemporary conversations around cyberpunk, climate change, anime, and more.

 

The Metabolist Imaginationfeatures original documentation of collaborations between giants of postwar Japanese art and architecture, such as the landmark 1970 Osaka Expo. It also provides the most sustained English-language discussion to date of the work of Komatsu Sakyō, considered one of the “big three” authors of postwar Japanese science fiction. These studies are underscored by Gardner’s insightful approach—treating architecture as a form of speculative fiction while positioning science fiction as an intervention into urban design—making it a necessary read for today’s visionaries.

The Metabolist Imagination

William O. Gardner is professor of Japanese language, literature, and film at Swarthmore College. He is author of Advertising Tower: Japanese Modernism and Modernity in the 1920s.


The Metabolist Imagination

Contents


Acknowledgments


Introduction


1. City Visions: Metabolism and Science Fiction


2. Ruined Cities: Isozaki Arata and Komatsu Sakyô


3. Planetary Cities: Komatsu Sakyô’s Disaster Fiction


4. Future City: The 1970 Osaka Expo


5. Liquid Cities: The Technopolis from Expo to Cyberpunk


6. Metabolist Echoes: Akira, Patlabor, and Yanobe Kenji


Notes


Selected Filmography


Bibliography


Index