Tokyo's iconic Nakagin Capsule Tower to be demolished

Completed in 1972, the eye-catching structure has been under threat of demolition for two decades. Now, it’s coming to pass

by Rossana Vinci
3 Love 3175 Visits

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One of Japan's most distinctive works of contemporary architecture, Kisho Kurokawa's iconic Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo will be demolished on April 12, according to the building's new owners.
The decision ends years of uncertainty surrounding the eye-catching structure, which once offered a futuristic vision of urban living but had recently fallen into disrepair.

The building is a rare remaining example of Japanese Metabolism, an architectural movement emblematic of Japan's postwar cultural resurgence. It was the world's first example of capsule architecture ostensibly built for permanent and practical use.



Nakagin Capsule Tower: an architectural icon


Completed in 1972, the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building outside Japan as the Nakagin Capsule Tower, is a mixed-use residential and office tower located in Shimbashi. The tower comprises 144 factory-built units arranged around two concrete cores. Each 10-square-meter "capsule" features a porthole-style window, with appliances and furniture built into the structure of each home.

story imageImage Courtesy @nakagin_capsule_tower 



Although Kisho Kurokawa intended for the tiny capsules to be replaced every 25 years, the two-tower structure remains unaltered till now, 49 years after its completion.

During 2007 a majority of capsule owners, citing squalid, cramped conditions as well as concerns over asbestos, voted to demolish the building and replace it with a much larger, more modern tower.

story imageImage Courtesy @nakagin_capsule_tower 



In the interest of preserving his design, Kurokawa proposed taking advantage of the flexible design by "unplugging" the existing boxes and replacing them with updated units. The plan was supported by the major architectural associations of Japan, including the Japan Institute of Architects; but the residents countered with concerns over the building's earthquake resistance and its inefficient use of valuable property adjacent to the high-value Ginza. Kurokawa died in 2007, and a developer for renovation has never be found.


Demolish or relocate?


In May 2021, a number of outlets reported that the management company of the building had voted to sell the complex to the original landowner, reigniting speculation over potential demolition and redevelopment. As of November 2021, the building houses 20 tenants. An attempt to sell it to a new owner fell through.

story imageImage Courtesy @nakagin_capsule_tower 



As the Architect’s Newspaper states ‘Last year architect and former capsule dweller Akiko Ishimaru launched the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building A606 Project crowdfunding campaign in an effort to detach and relocate Capsule A606, which she and a small team had restored to its space-age glory while converting it into a functional coworking space.’

The tower is scheduled to be demolished on April 12, 2022. Some individual capsules may be preserved or recycled.

story imageImage Courtesy @nakagin_capsule_tower 





Image Courtesy @nakagin_capsule_tower 

Image cover: Dick Thomas Johnson





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    Japan is the most disciplined country and tokyo is the fastest city i've ever seen.