In 1968 a series of uprisings that shook university campuses and cities worldwide also revolutionized aesthetic thought, partly by challenging the value of art, architecture, and design. In May of that year, Isozaki designed a large-scale installation with mobile screens, ambient sound, and projections on drawings and photographs for the Milan Triennale. Titled Electric Labyrinth, it was subsequently destroyed by protesting students and professors.
Based on Electric Labyrinth, this photocollage critiques societies in crisis and their failed responses to history by depicting an outstretched horizon and skeletal structures littering a grid of streets. The desolate panorama invites contemplation of the violence that inscribes Japanese, if not global, landscapes and architecture. The fragments here are former spaces of inhabitation incinerated by an atomic bomb—wreckage that Isozaki called “dead architecture.” Like his contemporaries, he sought to remove hierarchies and ideological impediments from the built environment; here the architect merged scenes of annihilation with images of broken buildings that once connoted institutional and economic power. For him, the restitution of the city, and, by extension, of society, required “the operation of the imagination.” Isozaki’s vision is both history lesson and portentous tale of what might become of us if we are not checked. The city’s remnants have buckled into its already degraded ground; architecture thus records acts of destruction and the collective histories of failed geopolitics, destructive technologies, and fragile societies in collapse.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Haunted by the remaining destruction of Hiroshima twenty-two years after the atomic bomb was exploded there, Arata Isozaki has projected images of his megastructures onto a photomural of the razed city. In this image his constructions are also in ruins. It is as if he had rebuilt Hiroshima, and it had once again undergone destruction. Ruins provide an important metaphor for Isozaki: "They are dead architecture. Their total image has been lost. The remaining fragments require the operation of the imagination if they are to be restored."
Publication excerpt from an essay by Bevin Cline and Tina di Carlo, in Terence Riley, ed., The Changing of the Avant-Garde: Visionary Architectural Drawings from the Howard Gilman Collection, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 101.