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In this essay, I would like to discuss the Philosophical Theory of Determinism. I will be looking

at the work of Kenzo Tange in his urban planning project ‘Plan for Tokyo’ (1960). In my opinion this project is strongly related to the Philosophy of Determinism. As the supporter for the debut of Metabolist group in World Design Conference held in Tokyo (1960), Japanese architect Kenzo Tange (1913-2005) had contributed and developed extensive amount of work including philosophical ideas, designs toward the group. Metabolist group consisted of four main Japanese architects and an architectural critic, who were Kisho Kurokawa, Kiyonori Kikutake, Masato Otaka, Fumihiko Maki and the critic Noboru Kawazoe. Most of them were Kenzo Tange’s students and protégés in the 1950s. The group established an architectural philosophy called ‘Metabolism’. Their aspiration was to solve the problems of overpopulated urban environment such as Tokyo during Japanese economic striking growth in the 1950-60s. I admire the philosophies and designs of Kenzo Tange and also Metabolists. In my research, I found that there are some ideas of Determinism that were the driving forces in their designs as well as the extractions of the theories from Buddhism and Zen. I would like to investigate the philosophical theories of Determinism and reflect them on the particular urban project ‘Plan for Tokyo’ by Kenzo Tange in 1960.

First of all, I would like to define the term ‘Determinism’, “Determinism is the doctrine that all

events and actions are ultimately determined by causes regarded as external to the will” [1]. In the writing on ‘Determinism and Freedom Philosophy Introduction - Its Terminology’ by the philosopher Ted Honderich, he notes “The term ‘determinism’ is also variously used. It is mainly used by many philosophers for accounts of our human choices and actions that make them into effects of causal sequences - sequences of such a kind as to raise a question about the freedom of the choices and actions. Determinism so understood has a limited subject - matter - ourselves and our lives, and indeed less than that. It is not the scientific and general or cosmic doctrine associated with Newtonian physics in the past. Certainly the term ‘determinism’ can be differently used for the general doctrine, as it typically is in the Philosophy of Science” [2]. From my understanding, Determinism is the philosophy about the chain of events which happen in space and time, started from a cause or series of causes. These causes create effects and the relationships between them are called Causality. The key figures who have took part in developing these philosophical ideas include Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and currently professor Ted Honderich. Sir Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was a great protagonist who had specified the terminology in this matter, such as ‘Entire Causes’, ‘Causation’, ‘Entire Causes’ and ‘Effect’ which still have the strong influences in philosophy nowadays. He notes, “an entire cause, is the aggregate of all the accidents both of the agents how many soever they be, and of the patient, put together; which when they are 1. J Pearsal, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 10th edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002, p. 320 2. T Honderich, Determinism and Freedom Philosophy - Its Terminology, University College of London Website, retrieved 9 March 2008, <>.


all supposed to be present, it cannot he understood but that the effect is produced at the same instant; and if any one of them be wanting, it cannot be understood but that the effect is not produced”


Contemporary philosopher Ted Honderich (born 1933) is currently researching and developing the philosophy of Determinism. His main fields of work include ‘Consciousness’, ‘Compatibilism’, ‘Incompatibilism’, ‘Terrorism’ and the matters that deal with ‘Mind and Brain’. I am convinced by his argument that ‘Determinism As True, Compatibilism And Incompatibilism As Both False, And The Real Problem’

. He argues that in his experiences so far, there is no single event has the absence of its


own explanation (cause). From my personal view, this is a natural fact. If there is no fire, why there is smoke? Follow the studies of Determinism in the West, I would carry out the research on Determinism and its related ideas in Eastern philosophy. From my point of view, the ideas of Determinism always exist in the East. They’re understood as ‘Karma’, “Karma in Hinduism and Buddhism is the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as affecting their future fate”

. Karma is a


fundamental philosophical idea in Buddhism, it is considered as ‘action’ of the relationship between ‘causes’ and ‘effects’. In my opinions, this concept is similar to ‘Causality’ in Determinism. The concept of Karma exist in the East in Buddhism, but the history of it dates back several centuries in India before the Buddha’s time. Buddhist people believe that their actions are the chains of events which affect each other. I strongly assume that not only Buddhist people in the East but also Westerner believe in Karma.

“Architecture must have something that appeals to the human heart, but even then, basic

forms, spaces and appearances must be logical. Creative work is expressed in our time as a union of technology and humanity. The role of tradition is that of a catalyst, which furthers a chemical reaction, but is no longer detectable in the end result. Tradition can, to be sure, participate in a creation, but it can no longer be creative itself”, said Kenzo Tange

. Kenzo Tange (1913-2005) was one of the


most dominant figures in contemporary Japanese architecture. He was in charge for the Hiroshima recreation, and the making of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (1955). His early works were strongly influenced by Le Corbusier which is clearly shown in projects such as: St.Mary’s Cathedral (1955) and Kagawa Prefectural the Government Building (1958). In 1960, Tange and his team (URTEC) established an utopian urban project ‘Plan For Tokyo/1960’ to solve the problems of overpopulation in Tokyo during the dramatic economic growth. Tange and his team accepted the fact that Tokyo will still expand in terms of population and land use area. They considered that the central hub planning method was no longer effective due to layers of congestion 1. T Hobbes, Entire Causes And Their Only Possible Effects, University College of London Website, retrieved 9 March 2008, <>. 2. T Honderich, Determinism As True, Compatibilism And Incompatibilism As Both False, And The Real Problem, University College of London Website, retrieved 11 March 2008, <www.ucl.>. 3. J Pearsal, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 10th edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002, p. 772 4. K Tange, Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate, Pritzker Prize Website, retrieved 11 March 2008, <>.


by the radial urban structure. They proposed the idea of ‘Civic Axis’ which was explained as a ‘linear extension of linked hub’ [1]. This ‘Civic Axis’ would break Tokyo existing radial network into a linear structure that allows growth and change freely in the parallel axis. The structure was composed by two main parallel circulation spines, which would stretch from Tokyo centre (The Imperial Palace) across Tokyo Bay toward the suburbs area [Plate.1]. These spines consist a chain of enclosed loops forming a network of ‘information and communication’. The circulation axis was expected that it could handle 200.000 cars in an hour. Tange and the team acknowledged that the proposal of city expansion on the bay would be high-priced but in fact it would reduce the risk of speculating land. In my own opinion, breaking the radial structure of the city has a strong representation of democracy. In the radial structure every road leads up to the centre of the city, identifying the control of the monarchy system. As the ‘Civic Axis’ and the enclosed loops circulation defined, Kenzo Tange developed series of parallel streets perpendicularly growing out from the circulation chains. These are the framework of residential blocks. The residential complex was a combination of enormous tent-form concrete blocks floating on the bay. These ‘gigantic tents’ echo the curvature of traditional Japanese roof [Plate.2]. The housing areas are raised up to the top of the tent, Tange and the team suggested the idea of letting residents plan their own home with existing structures and services. This was another innovative aspect of the project as they were trying to solve the problem of the modern standardization system and one-off design for custom needs. The other proposed building type was offices. Tange and the team designed a series of concrete cores that would have housed stairs, lifts and services. The offices would be suspended on these cores, built up by triangulated trusses. The reason behind these structures was to reduce the amount of foundations that would have been laid under the sea-bed and also the weight of the buildings [Plate.3]. Kenzo Tange was not a member of the Metabolist group even though I feel this project has a special relation with Metabolism theories and designs from my point of view. The first reason for this is because both project and the debut of Metabolism came out at the same time (1960), during the reconstruction of Japan after the World War II. The second factor is the way Tange arranged architectural zones legibly. With the ‘Civic Axis’ acting as the structure, circulation, and service core, so that the inhabitant zones would ‘grow out’ from it. This way of planning has something that is similar to Kisho Kurokawa’s iconic Nakagin Capsule Tower later on. The only difference between them is that Kurokawa’s Nakagin is able to undertake change and Tange’s Plan for Tokyo would be permanently fixed. It is certain that Kenzo Tange would have influenced the younger Metabolists and vice versa. Throughout my research and investigation into Metabolism, I discovered their philosophies turned around the ideas of ‘metamorphosis cycle’ and ‘transformation’. These are fundamental concepts in

1. R Boyd, Kenzo Tange, George Braziller-Inc, New York, 1962, p. 42


Zen Buddhism. These concepts are specifically about the chain of key events, and their transformations which must happen during the life time of any living creature. The events include ‘birth, aging, ailing and death’. I believe that every single stage effects another, which is the idea of Determinism. The innovations in Metabolists work enabled to undertake ‘changes’, so they would always fit in the surrounding environments. Th resulted the increased life-span of the building.

Environmental and social aspects determine the way an architect designs, and the design

determines how the inhabitants use it. In this part of the essay, I will review how Determinism had appeared in Kenzo Tange’s ‘Plan For Tokyo/1960’. At the end of World War II (1945), Japan was left devastated after air raid bombing. This event had a series of effects on its economy causing shortages in infrastructures, housing, transportation, and services. The reconstruction was constrained by the lack of materials and the United States of America’s control over the economy. Due to these problems, Japanese people were building up their own shelters out of any available materials found on the destructed fields. This created a ‘collage’ of chaotic fractures on the city plan, meaning they needed to replan the cities from scratch at this stage. In 1950, after the Korean War, Japanese economy started to bloom dramatically due to supports from the United States and the investments from foreign companies. These events were the right time for Japanese to redesign their industrial, infrastructure, transportations plans, so that the economy would be able to get back to its own stage. The main focus was around the areas of Tokyo, Osaka and Ise Bay. At the end of the 1950s, the Japanese economy was growing rapidly. This caused the shortage in housing estates in the cities due to the concentration of man-power in the industrial areas of Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. The problems were trying to be solved by series of visionary urban planning schemes including Kuro Kano - ‘The Project to Reclaim the Coasts of Tokyo Bay/1958’, Kenzo Tange & URTEC ‘ Plan For Tokyo/1960 - Toward A Structural Reorganization’, Kisho Kurokawa - ‘Helix City/1961’, Kiyonori Kikutake - ‘Marine City/1961’ and Arata Isozaki - ‘City In The Sky/1962’. These project shared the same inspirations from Japanese traditional architecture and culture. These are causes that affected Kenzo Tange and URTEC design in ‘Plan For Tokyo/1960’ in terms of Determinism. In this following section, I would like analyse how their master plan would determine the uses of its occupants. The most distinctive element of this master plan is the ‘Civic Axis’. It defines the circulation patterns in and out of Tokyo. It controls the flow of traffic with the use of enclosed high-way loops that placed on the axis [Plate.4]. The other special aspect of the design appeared on the residential zone, in which Kenzo Tange and


his team would let the occupants plan their own home by arranging open plan plots. From my point of view, Kenzo Tange was inspired by his own traditional Japanese house, the way it is free-plan and has a flexible spatial arrangement. Kenzo Tange was trying to keep the traditional spirit but added in a modern tweak.

In conclusion, I would verify that Determinism always appears in the design process, from

the beginning stage to the end. There are many causes, some of which are design requirement, culture, economy, environment which effect the design. Kenzo Tange’s urban design project ‘Plan For Tokyo/1960’ was an example that I looked at to reflect the Determinist theories. I have realized the Japanese social, cultural, economic problems (causes) in the 1950-60s had strong influences on Tange’s design (effects). In addition, his design would have determined the way the occupants use if the project was ever realized. In my comparison, Japan’s situation in the 1950-60s was exactly like Vietnam, my home country, is at the moment. Industries, services and the economy are developing rapidly creating overpopulated cities including Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. I feel that more effective urban planning schemes should be laid down certainly.

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Books Boyd R, Kenzo Tange, George Braziller-Inc, New York, 1962. Kultermann U, Kenzo Tange 1946-1969, Pall Mall Press, London, 1970. Pearsal J, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 10th edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002. Ross M, Beyond Metabolism: The New Japanese Architecture, Architectural Record, New York, 1978.

Internet Articles Hobbes T, Entire Causes And Their Only Possible Effects, University College of London Website, retrieved 9 March 2008, <>. Honderich T, Determinism and Freedom Philosophy - Its Terminology, University College of London Website, retrieved 9 March 2008, <>. Honderich T, Determinism As True, Compatibilism And Incompatibilism As Both False, And The Real Problem, University College of London Website, retrieved 11 March 2008, < dfwVariousHonderichKanebook.htm>. Tange K, Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate, Pritzker Prize Website, retrieved 11 March 2008, <www.>.

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