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Futurism – La Citta Nuova / Helix City

Updated: Aug 12, 2022

In this blog, I will explore the contrast between designs of Antonio Sant’Elia and Kisho Kurukowa which leads into the theory of Futurism. The idea of ‘’a better world’’ was envisioned by two different cultures, Political, and conditional experiences that is very similar yet, so different to each other’s vision for the future. I will analyse the differences and the similarities of their vision that they have had in order to create a future that is machine-like, superstructures becoming the new mountains and application of advanced technology throughout their design. Both futurists had an obsession with newness to ‘’reconstruct the universe’’. They saw themselves as ‘pioneers’ manufacturing a civilization from scratch that leads them into the theory of Futurism.

Antonio Sant’Elia - La Citta Nuova

Kisho Kurukowa - Helix City

Visions of Future

Throughout the industrial ages until the new era which was ‘Science and Mass production’, idea of ‘Dynamism’ was one of the main focus in architecture. Antonio Sant’Elia was one the architects that advocated the idea of ‘Dynamism’ by embracing ideal movement, activity and motion in architecture. “We must invent and rebuild, It must be like an immense, tumultuous, lively, noble work site, dynamic in all its parts.” He believed that only way to reach to the future is to do what is known as impossible. Creating high rise buildings with their individual towers to inhabit elevators that leans back to back, were seen as steps to the future. Creating external and internal corridors that penetrates the buildings vertically and horizontally. Criss-crossed bridges and walkways were made to create artificial landscape. City becoming the landscape, the buildings were designed to become the mountains and the air pockets within these megastructures were seen as the walkways.

Why should we look back, when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible?

‘Futurist Manifesto of 1909 Sant’Elia’

Vision of Antonio Sant'Elia is expressed in his very own ‘Manifesto of Futurist Architecture’. His passion towards future is visible through the design of Citta Nuova as described above. Sant’Elia believed that the city must be able to accelerate and expedite in terms of ‘speed up’ with the idea of advanced technology constantly working to simplify the living. Visually, we can understand that the city is in constant move. However, he didn’t mean the objects within the buildings are moving. He actually proposed the city as a continuous construction where the buildings within the city is converging multiples of transporting mechanisms that allows the city to constantly build up the motion throughout the years. Ideology behind the city was divided into three levels of traffics which was proposed as‘Pedestrians overpasses –Roads for cars and Tracks for tramways’, However that division was then became a merging point with the elevator shafts that moved vertically through buildings in the city in order to channel the transporting.

Autonomy of the buildings were the main aspects in his vision that lead the design of La Citta Nuova to be self-sufficient with itsuntied motion within the circulation of people, cars and trains. The vision of Sant Elia was described as it was a ‘knot’ in terms of city designing, where each object or structure is connected in a way that it created networking system which is described as the ‘circulation’. Multiple levels of structures connecting from one building to another, expressed SantElia’s obsession towards circulation through his vision.In his world, naturalism never existed but urbanism did. Each structure and individual were seen as a piece for the system and that system is translated into a huge machine, a city, a landscape, a new world.

Metabolist Manifesto become the new realm after the tragic wipe out that happened in Japan. Shifting the focus on Kisho Kurukowa’s vision, carrying on from the ‘Science and Mass production’ era, Metabolism in architecture was about how people inhabited the environment they are in and how they have enhanced it for their own individualism. Metabolist architect believed that using biological paradigms would help them create efficient patterns in terms of design to enable rapid growth, starting life from scratch. Each structure was seen a cell that, is repeatedly re-built to create mutation. His vision was expressed through organic city plan which is known as the ‘Helix City’ as you can see the mega towers are connected to the bridge infrastructures that extends on land and sea. Spaces between the towers and the bridges, are used as residential buildings. These patterns will start to occur on the landscape as the structure regenerates new towers and bridges, and that will create more spaces for residential buildings and this process will repeat which is expressed as ‘mutation’ in Kurukowa’s world. The ideology of ‘dynamism’ within the megastructure becomes visible as the mutation takes place. Whole structure becomes one enormous cell ‘Landscape’ that is connected with tiny chromosomes ‘Structures

The theory of the metabolic cycle is applicable to the restructuring of space, and each individual occupying a unit is completely free to have that unit reflect his or her personal needs and wishes.” Pg. 98 paragraph 2

The Metabolist movement in architecture.

Pre-war times, importance of each space were differentiated through its sizes,The most important space was where people welcomed their guests however, the movement wanted to define the city as an individual space to satisfy inner spiritual needs, as a way of giving feedback on the mechanism to create a form of prefabricated buildings that opposed uniformity. ’Urban society is designed or its environments formed, we find that it is not mechanically created by city planners or architects. Through the application of technology.’ Kurokawa's idea was to create a structure that is responsive, replaceable and could grow biologically yet, so organic which enables the design to re-generate the destroyed city with the idea of mutation as described above. Instead of differentiating the rooms due to their sizing and categorizing the importance of each room, the whole structure was seen as one, as a complete multiplying machine. A megastructure that functions as a city.

Cultural Theory

as you can see both vision is relied on one thing, which is ‘Technology’ However, each vision is triggered from different experiences in the context of Culture, Condition and Political sides that leads to the same ‘Future’. This is where the similarities and differences of these ‘Visions’ becomes apparent. Cultural side to the theory starts with ‘Sant’ Elia’s’ rejection towards designing what is already have been designed. “We must resolve the problem of Modern architecture without cribbing photographs of China, Persia or Japan” He believed that traditional rules of culture was only a trap, and will degenerate the human ideas. ‘Traditional ways of life, along with traditional forms of art and architecture, stifled human progress’ Cultural theory to his vision is that disabling the ideas from past and focusing on technical expertise is the only way to come up with new ideas. He believed that recreating the designs of Vitruvius will never allow you to design the future but keep you in a loop decorations. ‘The decorative must be abolished.

The problem of Futurist architecture must be resolved’ Which implements that in order to be ‘revolutionized’ in context of ‘Speed’ flashes of the genius and the burst of impossible ideas turned into reality by using scientific is the only ‘ticket’ that will allow us to enter the future. However, Kisho Kurukawa’s vision was mainly based on the cultural side of his life. Analysis of the living cell and breaking it down into different parts in order to create such a structure that can be multiplied, replaced and expanded from a singular building into a city and then a new world. Ideology behind his cultural theory was that, we already have everything in front of us, we just have to look in depth in order to see what seems invisible but it actually is visible. He wrote that ‘There are two traditions inherent in any culture: the visible and the invisible.’ Which implements that his ideas towards the spiral structure is based on the creativity he had discovered to multifunction an informational data that’s been invisible through many people’s eyes but his.

Aspects of both vision of the future through the cultural sides, we can see the different triggers and inspirations to their designs. ‘La Citta Nuova’ being the unconscious and uncontrolled in the context of ‘new ideas’ in order to design the ‘Future’ On the other hand, when we look closely into ‘Kisho Kurukowa’s Helix City’ we can clarify that the his vision is conscious and sentient in terms of new designs for the ‘Future.’

Political Theory

Kisho Kurukowa has translated his vision and design of the Helix City as ‘Symbiosis’ which is referred as ‘Living Together’ in Greek. Ideology of the political theory was supported with togetherness. A bond between multiple living organisms that is necessary to each other. One of the political issues in Japan was not having enough space. Entire country was filled up with different sized structures that has no connection, However Kurukawa saw an opportunity in fixing that issue to overcome the problem after that tragic happened. "I found it meaningless to attempt to revive an already destroyed city by means of a monument, I felt that it was important to let the destroyed be and to create a new Japan," Political theory was controlled by the ambition which is to redesign the city and build a new Japanese society. Design of Helix City was a reconsideration of what architecture is and what architecture can do for the people of Japan. Political side of the design was to create ‘Freedom’ in terms of space and to allow people have their own living environment which could be multiplied and dismantled.

However when we refer back to ‘La Citta Nuova’, Sant Elia’s Vision was discovered through the political theory. He disliked the idea of ‘Cribbing’ which is translated as copying. In those time, Italy was a centre point of architecture, where most Italian architects were fascinated by other countries designs. He mentioned in his manifesto that ‘These architectonic prostitutions are welcomed in Italy, and rapacious alien ineptitude is passed off as talented invention and as extremely up-to-date architecture.’ Which refers back to the copying of designs from other countries or going back to the past to redesign through the ‘Rules of Vitruvius’.

‘The young are forced into the onanistic recopying of classical models instead of throwing their minds open in the search for new frontiers and in the solution of the new and pressing problem’ Political theory to his vision was that in order to achieve ‘New’ you must do what is not done as mentioned above. Solution to this political problem was the introduction of ‘La Citta Nuova’ which he translated it as the ‘New City’ Both political theories are very much the same where a crisis happens and the ambitious one finds a solution to that crisis. However, contrast between both vision is the ‘tigger point’ psychologically a person’s reaction to any kind of happening is a sign of discomfort. Comparison of the discomfort within their political area is the reason that ‘Newness’ must happen whether is a biological design or technical machine.

Conditional Theory

Both ‘Antonio Sant’Elia’ and ‘Kisho Kurukowa’s’ simplicity in their designs and the conditions that they were in due to constant wars were also one of the theorical similarities. The link between not only being as referred as ‘Megastructures’ or ‘Futurists’but the connection between the conditions that they were in as they were both in need of a solution to overcome the Conditional and Political issues to ‘Reconstruct the Universe’ was a ‘CenterPoint’ to their vision. Sant’Elia mentioned ‘Reason for existence can be found solely in the unique conditions of modern life. This architecture cannot be subjected to any law of historical continuity. It must be new, just as our state of mind is new.’


To sum up everything not only their idea of ‘A better world’ but their Conditional experiences have similarities in their version of ‘Future’ and how both vision developed the idea of futurism even though Cultural and Political theories were very different. Their design influence is still relevant in nowadays architecture and their vision is very important for the future; however, I believe that‘future’ changes throughout the ideology of ‘Present’, the cultural, political and the conditional sides to our lives evolves as the time goes forward. Their designs have influenced our present as an ‘Idea’ or as ‘What if’ even though Antonio Sant Elia’s Vision of the future was never built, Sant’ Elia’s idea was an inspiration for Le Corbusier’s such as the design of Ville Radieuse (“Radiant City”) and how the building was technologically advanced as the Sant’ Elia’s vision as well as film industry such as blade runner. Referring back to ‘Metabolism’ which now seen as a failure in architecture due to the controversial theory of ‘resilience’ as the idea of mutation never took place and the reason for this failure was not being able to combine sustainability and technology in architecture. As I mentioned above as the time passes, new conditional, political, and cultural issues starts to occur, in order to adapt to these issues we must be aware of constantly evolving ‘technology’ and sustainability of our world to overcome the problems.

Written by: Elija Halil

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