This project aims to answer one question: how information spreads across the network of a certain group of individuals. In the case of architectural community, this topic is extremely important, because it, to a great extent, determines and formulates the landscape of architecture as a discipline. The status of how individual architects influence, learn, study, work, collaborate, etc. – in general communicate – with others becomes crucial as a way in which one could understand the development of architecture as a whole. Given this particular interest, this project’s objective is to visualize the epistemological mechanism within the field of architecture.

In fact, there are mainly two categories of the process of information dissemination among individuals who belong to the architectural realm – the publication and the apprenticeship. On the one hand, regardless the format, the way in which the publication contains knowledge is to compile a variety of information of architects and their works into physical embodiments. As a result, both the format and essence of this epistemological agency are discreet, which entails an inefficiency of the necessary articulation regarding the interrelation within the accumulation of knowledge. This particular problem can be seen in many architectural survey books. Although providing a comprehensive collection of architectural facts, they fail to offer a chance to see through the phenomenal surface and moreover gain further interpretations of the hidden dimension embedded within the aggregation of discontinuous knowledge dataset.

On the other hand, the apprenticeship plays an extremely important role in architecture. Beyond the knowledge and skills that can be passed by across generations through means like books or lectures, in order to learn architecture design we all, to different degree, need mental inspirations – such as occasional enlightenments, awakening, revelations, etc. ­– which can be obtained only through close personal interaction between a master and a disciple. A few of the most well-known apprenticeships within the modern era in the West are Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid, among many other pairs.

The architectural apprenticeship is probably most evident among Japanese architects than any other Western countries. One could clearly see this tradition of passing over knowledge and design methods beyond the reach of our language capacity from generation to generation. This tradition has largely framed the landscape of Japanese architecture since the earliest stage of the Japanese modern architecture to the most recent one, since the old time of the Imperial University of Technology to the age of the Tokyo University, since the time where most of the influence came from Frank Lloyd Wright and Antonin Raymond to the time that came from the new generation exemplified by Toyo Ito and Kazuyo Sejima, since a period comprehensively lean toward the Modernist Architecture led by Le Corbusier to the favor of the school of Kenzo Tange during the postwar period alongside the Metabolist architects.

Moreover, I realize that there is a benefit derived from mapping the relational apprenticeship within Japanese architects is that it could be helpful to gain a better understanding of a larger picture in terms of the role of Japanese architecture in the Modernist architecture in the mid-20th century. No one would disagree that Japanese architecture in contemporary time is a major component of the Modernist architecture as a global and universal notion as well as an embodiment of Japan’s own cultural, historical, and national identity. Nevertheless, about half a century ago, the question about whether Japanese architecture is a part of the Modernist movement or not was still problematic. As a major member of the Metabolist movement Arata Isozaki might think of this issue in a different way “Today, if one looks back at the Metabolist movement that took place in Tokyo half a century ago, one should look at the two contexts that are laid upon it. One is the global development of the Modern Movement of architecture. Another is the particular context of Japan as an island on the edge of the Far East. Regarding the process of global development, it is sufficient to say that Metabolism was the last example of a modern art and architectural movement seeking utopia as an aim to raise an avant-garde manifesto. It provided a foothold connecting Japanese modern architecture to the global development of modern architecture.”

Is it the case as Isozaki claims, in particular the Metabolism is part of Modernism movement in a global scale and, to some extent, bridges the West and Japan? As a matter of fact, this debatable affinity between Japanese architecture and the West could be justified through the visualization of the information flow across the network of Metabolist and Modernist architects as a whole. Overall, I propose to do a project to visualize the social network of Japanese and Western modernist architects. This project composes two parts. The first part is to map the apprenticeship within the Japanese modern architects from 1860 to the contemporary. And the second is to visualize how information spreads across the mainstream of modernist and Japanese architects by focusing on the Metabolism movement happened in the mid-20th century.

The specific tool that I would like to use is the Graph Commons, which is a “network mapping platform and a knowledge base of relationships.” The Graph Commons, to a certain degree, satisfies the need of my current study because it can visualize relationships at a variety of scales and meanwhile has the potential capacity to unfold the hidden dimension or even mystery about the complexity of the issues that people want to understand more.  

Posted by:Liyang DING

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