Tokyoism: The Beginning
As Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc around the globe, I sit here today introspective as well as desperately yearning to imagine a better world when all seems to halt in place. Yet, at a time when every one of us is speculating increasingly about the better world this can be and how to achieve those visions. This is the time to reflect and document the city that I both love and hate, the life I’ve lived, the country I call home, and the culture that never ceased to inspire and bemuse me. This is not the rumination of an insider, but of one unabashedly on the edge or boundary of all definitions and natures. I am, at the same time, both and neither an insider nor outsider, forever destined to tread in an eternal limbo of my purgatory.
Tokyo is a Gordian Knot; previously attempted to compartmentalize it into identifiable, dissectable, and easily palpable comportments. Tokyoism starts with embracing the city’s complexity, and as such, does not dare replicate Alexander’s tour-de-force. Tokyoism also does not pretend to be a perfect body of knowledge. It is in a constant, cyclical state of experimentation, hybridization, normalization, and back again. Perhaps the documentation that is apt to capture aspects of this heterotopic city itself is constantly updated with every periodic edition.
Tokyoism also does not intend to compete or oppose the great body of research contained in the genres of Edogaku (study of Edo), Edo-Tokyo-gaku, or the iconography of absence, and draws much from these inspiring precedents. The difference lies in the idea that history is very much still alive, very much palimpsestic and exacting onto our daily lives. As it is unproductive to separate multitudes of things including profession and disciplines today, it is as equally unproductive to separate past, present and future as categorically different objects regulated by time. The superimposition of time and space, as well as ideal and actual, make Tokyo not just a heterotopia in a Foucaultian sense. It brings into question the very nature of history as an arbitrary construct in relation to a point in time. These words as I write are already things of the past, but as you read, they have become objects of the present; then they go back to historical oblivion again.
Tokyoism contends that all, including architecture, is a part of a great continuum. Any architecture does not exist as episodic singularities disconnected from the ever-unfolding epic of humanity. Yet, the current saturation of styles has resulted in a litany of promiscuous bracketed choices in references. An unprecedented freedom of selection has precipitated into a wanton cambrian explosion of forms. This has led to an age of vacuous contemporaneous neo-eclecticism proliferating self-gratifying digital euphoria. These ghosts of empty ideologies, ensconced in seductive forms, have concluded in an extant impasse and proven their incoherence with the macro project of a productively critical Architecture.
Tokyoism is neither mining for historic intelligence nor to dogmatize aesthetics. Tokyoism does look throughout history as a material field flourishing with diverse organisms, objects, networks, and facts. But make no mistake, the primary purpose of Tokyoism is to engender a new theory in design, no matter that it may be simultaneously imperfect and audacious. It is to excavate and discover uncanny or wondrous phenomena from this contemporary city, and sublimated them towards universal ideas and methods. First, from Tokyo, onwards to the World.
As an exploration towards an imperfect manifesto from an ever-incomplete city, Tokyoism will take up a different subject each issue to dissect, expand upon, and opportunistically theorize. While there is a bucket list of things and phenomena to explore, we would like to make this a shared experience with you. In this spirit, if you’d like to participate, please send us what kind of topics interests you about Tokyo or architecture and urban design in general to enchante@bureau0–1.com.
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Thank you for your time, and looking forward to our continuing relationship and productive discourse in 2021!