The Nakagin Capsule Tower: Saving a Monument


The Nakagin Capsule Tower is one of the most fascinating and strange architectural wonders of our modern world. Build in 1972, this residential and commercial tower designed by famed Japanese architect Kurokawa Kisho is an icon of Japanese Metabolism. Essentially, the participants of this movement focused on the design of structures that allowed flexibility for growth and reduction (read more). While living in Tokyo, I joined a group to conserve this fascinating building:




Each one of the shipping container-based rooms is it’s own room, complete with a bathroom.




The rooms are quite cozy and let in a good amount of light! Unfortunately the windows do not open. Originally, the windows were equipped with spinning blinds to shade the room from sun. Here is a glance of the view from the window, which shows a busy street in Shimbashi.



 There are also some very interesting design features in the rooms, such as this desk that folds down from the wall.




 Also, this built-in switchboard with light, timer and clock is certainly a flashback to the futuristic visions of the 1970’s.



I particularly enjoyed the shape of the bathroom door, which reflected the compactness of the room as well as a tasteful design.




As you can tell, the years have taken much of the original newness from the Capsule Tower. In fact, there has been so little attention to upkeep, many of the rooms are unsafe to live in due to water leakage.




The exterior of the building is also quite shabby, showing a considerable amount of dirt from smog and water damage. Mesh covers the entire building.




With the lack of renovation, the dreams of the Metabolists are betrayed. Since this building was built with consistent change as needed in mind, the absence of upkeep has been detrimental to the theory and physical presence of the structure. Located right next to Ginza, one of the busiest centers in Japan, the demolition of The Nakagin Capsule Tower is highly favored by the company who owns it because of the extremely valuable land.




The destruction of the tower would be a huge loss to the art, design and architectural communities, for it is a true monument of history. The  ideas surrounding the building have been extremely influential throughout the following decades of design. Even after staying in a capsule for a night in the less than perfect state of The Nakagin Capsule Tower has left me overjoyed.




Demolition has been considered for almost a decade now, but thankfully several Japanese and international architects have spoken out against it in favor of re-purposing the building or renovating the capsules. While visiting the capsule tower is not met with warmth by the front desk (note the warning sticker posted in the elevator), I was extremely lucky to be able to experience the structure first-hand.



 During my stay in Tokyo, I’ve become heavily involved with a non-profit movement to help save the capsule tower by purchasing as many capsules as possible with donated money. The Save The Nakagin Capsule Tower Project aims to halt the imminent destruction of the monument in favor of alternative options. Please visit our website and social media pages to help support the project!



Save the Nakagin Capsule Tower Project

One response »

  1. I, too, am fascinated by the capsule tower as I live in a tiny home in Australia. I have a problem with space/storage and the tower reminds me of a simpler, minimalist lifestyle–it almost seems freeing. But, then I think about the deteriorated state of the tower. I admire the fortitude of the people who live there. They are doing it hard without hot water, natural ventilation and insulation from the elements. I almost think I could live there for cheap accommodation in central Tokyo BUT it must get so bitterly cold and ridiculously hot at times. These people must live there because they are either resilient or they have no other choice. Perhaps, in some crazy way, the tower represents freedom to them. They live simply in order to enjoy more of the outside world. Quality of life does not come down to the size of your accommodation–it’s your output as a human being that counts. By output I mean love, contribution, sharing, encouragement, acceptance…the list goes on. People should not be defined by where they live. But it seems sad that the tower has evolved into full-time living quarters for some when it was never really designed for this purpose. This is where metabolism has broken down and, although I LOVE the concept, real people are at risk in these premises. Will the bolts holding the capsules in defy the ravages of water and time? I only hope that the issues will be resolved in the near future.

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