Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A brute force

One of the most popular exhibitions held in the Auckland Art Gallery in 1958 was the Hiroshima Panels by husband and wife Iri Maruki and Toshiko Akamatsu. The ten paintings depicting the horrors of the atomic explosion in the Japanese city of Hiroshima drew some of the largest crowds the Gallery had ever had through its doors.

We were reminded of this in Tokyo when we saw a proposal for the Atomic Bomb Memorial Building in Hiroshima. Intended to house the panels, the concept and initial design were developed in 1955 by the Japanese architect Shira Seiichi. Beautiful as the memorial was, it was never built but the proposal was recreated for the exhibition Metabolism, the city of the future at the Mori Art Museum.

The exhibition was pretty much a history of utopian modernism as expressed in brutalist architecture and grandiose city plans. Presented in models, photographs and video reconstructions the exhibition shied away from the fate of many of the buildings and projects featured.

It is worth noting that while some went on to become architectural classics (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum,  St. Mary’s Cathedral, Yoyogi National Stadium) a surprising number have been demolished. A fascinating coda to the exhibition would have been photographs of the buildings as they are today. After all, we are that future this band of architects had in mind.
Image: a contemporary visualisation of the proposed Atomic Bomb Memorial Building in Hiroshima