Isozaki never presents the metaphorical human body as a complete system closed on itself, but on the contrary, it is seen as an assembled organism of amalgamated fragments. The architect is not solely seen as the life-giver, able to create the permanent infrastructure of the city that sustains the growth of its organism. According to him, the architect also needs to foresee the state of decay of the body he has created: death should not be eradicated from the realm of aesthetics, because it enriches the dominant narratives with the poetry of paradox.
Sure enough, for the Metabolists, the short-lived, “soft” cells that are attached to a more permanent infrastructure are simply to be replaced when they turn obsolete. While this is the expression of efficiency, for Isozaki it nevertheless misses the opportunity to relate to the poetics of life, which is never disconnected from the finitude at the basis of each life-cycle: “Since change is half-destructive and half-constructive, it should be permissible for architecture to create the exact appearance of ruins.”
Certainly, Isozaki’s comment does not only apply to the city, but also to the status of human creativity at large –a view that has its conceptual antecedent in European Romantic thought, which Isozaki is well aware of.
“Architecture With or Without Irony”
The cycle of self-positing and self-annihilation paradigmatic of Romantic irony, and important to Isozaki, is theorized in the writings of the German Jena Romantic Friedrich Schlegel. The dilemma presented by Schlegel’s irony arises from the impossibility to express the categorical and the ideal within any single aesthetic creation; any conception is but a fragmentary representation of the continuously evolving reflection of the creator. For that reason, Schlegel holds that it is impossible to reach the highest idea positively; instead, any creation has to forebode its own obliteration: “That, which doesn’t annihilate itself, is worthless.”
He identifies this “complete,” i.e. double-edged, engagement with the historical process in his ideal of art of ancient Greece: “The majesty of antiquity is felt to be indissolubly linked with the images of decline and ruin, for both arise from the same source, -the dominion of instinct, and the spontaneous development of nature. […] Grecian art itself, which rose to absolute perfection, ended also with itself, and it presents a remarkable instance of the perishable nature of merely instinctive greatness.”
In other words, art can only allude to perfection by expressing its aesthetic absolute in a state of decay.