“During the height of Tokyo’s building activity, almost one-quarter of its built substance was renewed over a period of five years.Yet, in the course of disasters, demolition, rebuilding, and the regular effects of modernization, its lot lines, its pattern of streets and paths have remained largely unchanged.
The modernization of Tokyo has not been accompanied by a profound restructuring of property and traffic patterns driven by organizational ideals or political goals. In essence, the city is an assemblage of modern buildings on a medieval footprint. Nevertheless, Tokyo is said to exhibit a particular expertise in dealing with the amorphous and ever changing, to have a capacity for seamless regeneration throughout its transformation, to provide in its formlessness an unsurpassed degree of urbanity, complexity and programmatic variety. What, then, if the modernization of a city has to be explained without programs or principles, without the recursion to formal models or detailed, and five-yearly updated development plans? Can there be an urbanism which deals with the formless, an urbanism able to describe a city composed of its own periphery? Where is content – ideas, desires and goals– generated for all the hardware being produced? What makes such a city develop at all?
This text is an attempt to understand the modernization of Tokyo on the basis of shopping typologies – concept as ready-made – simultaneously model and manifesto, business plan and prophecy.”
Hosoya, Hiromi and Schaefer, Markus: “Tokyo Metabolism”. in: Rem Koolhaas et al. (eds), The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping (Köln: Taschen, 2001), p.748-763Download PDF