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The Philosophy of Symbiosis by Kisho Kurokawa

Kisho Kurokawa, a Japanese architect, is one of the founders to the Metabolist group and author to buildings such as the Nakagin Capsule Tower, Tokyo (1972), the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (1986) and the Pacific Tower, Paris (1991).

Symbiosis, a term used in biotechnology, is used to describe an intimate organism-organism interaction, which may be of beneficial, harmful or neutral effect to both parties.

In "the Philosophy of Symbiosis", Kurokawa's theories draw on Buddhism, biology as well as the characteristically Japanese perception of technology as a hybrid of nature. The book makes frequent reference to dualism, another prevailing oriental theme. Kurokawa prophetically foresaw a progression "from the age of the machine" to "the age of life", which will result in "a symbiosis of nature and human beings, of environment and architecture." He pursued this future through metabolism, metamorphosis and symbiosis.

For example, symbiosis could be achieved through heredity as follows:

one - through the respect of historic tradition. A good example is the Japanese architectural method Sukiya, which reinterprets old forms with new materials.

two - by allowing contemporary life to act as a context to history, and give it new meaning.

three - through an intellectual, or perhaps witty manipulation of historic symbolism as a mode of expression (c.f. Nigel Coates).

Kurokawa also rejects closed regionalism or the belief that all aspects of a culture are inviolable but advocated that new life could be achieved through the opposition of extremes. An intermediary space gives both players a set of common rules to abide by, and thus provides unification.

"As mutual penetration and mutual understanding of two opposing elements proceeds, the bounds of the intermediate space are always in motion. This process, because of the presence of intermediate space reveals the life principle itself, in all its ambivalence, multivalence and vagueness. Tolerance, the lack of clearcut boundaries, and the interpenetration of interior and exterior are special features of Japanese art, culture and architecture..."

Extracts from source: Kisho Kurokawa, the Philosophy of Symbiosis, Academy Editions (London), 1994. The Japanese text was first published in 1987.

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