The Nakagin Capsule Tower Building[a] was a mixed-use residential and office tower in the upscale Ginza district of Tokyo, Japan designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa. Completed in two years from 1970 to 1972,[1]: 388  the building was a rare remaining example of Japanese Metabolism[2]: 105  alongside the older Kyoto International Conference Center, 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. The building, however, fell into disrepair. Around thirty of the 140 capsules were still in use as apartments by October 2012, while others were used for storage or office space, or simply abandoned and allowed to deteriorate. As recently as August 2017 capsules could still be rented (relatively inexpensively, considering its Ginza locale), although the waiting list was long.[3]

Nakagin Capsule Tower Building
General information
TypeResidential, office
Architectural styleMetabolism
Location8 Chome-16-10 Ginza, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0061, Japan
Coordinates35°39′56.20″N 139°45′48.20″E / 35.6656111°N 139.7633889°E / 35.6656111; 139.7633889
Construction started1970
Technical details
Floor count13
Floor area3,091.23 m2 (33,273.7 sq ft)
Design and construction
Architect(s)Kisho Kurokawa

In 2022, demolition of the building was initiated.[4] Attempts to raise funds to save it and campaigns to preserve it as a historic landmark were unsuccessful.[5][6][7] The tower was scheduled to be disassembled starting April 12, 2022, with component units repurposed.[3][5]

Design edit

Towers edit

The building was composed of two interconnected concrete towers, eleven and thirteen floors tall,[b] which housed 140 self-contained prefabricated capsules in total;[2]: 105  most floors had eight capsules per tower, with a few exceptions. There were three bridge decks (6F, 9F, and 12F), each connecting the two towers with an external balcony.

The cores were rigid-frame, made of a steel frame and reinforced concrete. From the basement to the second floor, ordinary concrete was used; above those levels, lightweight concrete was used. Shuttering consisted of large panels the height of a single storey of the tower. In order to make early use of the staircase, precast concrete was used in the floor plates and the elevator shafts. Because the construction schedule used a repeating pattern of two days of steel-frame work, followed by two days of precast-concrete work, the staircase was completely operational by the time the framework was finished. On-site construction of the elevators was shortened by incorporating the 3-D frames, the rails, and anchor indicator boxes in the precast concrete elements and by employing prefabricated cages.[2]: 108 

The architect said that this building reflected that asymmetry is part of the Japanese tradition.[8]

Capsules edit

Capsule types and counts[2]: 105 
A 29 26
B 18 0
C 24 31
D 12 0

Each capsule measured 2.5 m × 2.5 m × 4.0 m (8.2 ft × 8.2 ft × 13.1 ft)[c][2]: 109  with a circular window 1.3 m (4.3 ft) in diameter at one end; the capsule functioned as a small individual living or office space, with an in-unit bathroom.[2]: 105  Although the capsules were designed with mass production in mind, no additional capsules were produced after the initial construction and none of the original capsules were ever replaced.[3][9]

The capsules were fitted with utilities and interior fittings before being shipped to the building site, where they were attached to the concrete towers. Each capsule was attached independently to one of the two towers by only four high-tension bolts and cantilevered from the shaft, so that a single capsule could be removed easily without affecting the others.[2]: 105  Plumbing for each capsule is connected through a flexible umbilical, approximately 1 m (3 ft 3 in) long.[2]: 108  The original design concept proposed to combine specialized capsules into a larger living space,[2]: 105  but it is not clear if this was implemented.

The capsules were all-welded lightweight steel-truss boxes clad in galvanized, rib-reinforced steel panels which had been coated with rust-preventative paint and finished with a coat of Kenitex glossy spray after processing.[2]: 105–106  The offsite factory that assembled the capsules also built intermodal containers and the welding jig for the capsules was modified from the container assembly line. Major structural elements were fireproofed with a coat of sprayed asbestos 45 mm (1.8 in) thick, while the exterior panels were coated with the same substance to 30 mm (1.2 in) thick.[2]: 106–107 

The original target demographic was bachelor Tōkyō salarymen.[10] The compact pieds-à-terre included a wall of appliances and cabinets built into one side, including a kitchen stove, a refrigerator, a television set, and a reel-to-reel tape deck. A bathroom unit, about the size of an aircraft lavatory, was set into an opposite corner. A large circular window over the bed dominated the far end of the room.[10] Optional extras such as a stereo were also originally available.[9]

History edit

Takara Holdings Pavilion at Expo '70

The Metabolist movement was launched in 1960 by a group of architects, designers, and critics including Kurokawa, Kiyonori Kikutake, Masato Otaka, Fumihiko Maki, Noboru Kawazoe [ja], Kenji Ekuan, and Kiyoshi Awazu, with the publication of Metabolism: the Proposals for New Urbanism at the World Design Conference in Tokyo. The group advocated for the development of megastructures which largely were not realized due to changes in the 1970s resulting from energy crises and environmental considerations.[11]

Kurokawa began exploring modular capsule architecture with the design of the Takara Beautilion at Expo '70 in Osaka, which used a framework of steel tubes to support stainless steel-clad cubic capsules displaying beauty products from Takara Holdings.[11] At the same exposition, Kurokawa also designed a capsule house, suspended from the space frame roof of the Symbol Zone.[12] Impressed by the Beautilion, Torizo Watanabe retained Kurokawa to design a similar permanent building for his real estate company, Nakagin, to serve business owners and employees as a second home for occasional overnight stays in central Tokyo.[11]

Construction, 1970-1972 edit

Construction occurred both onsite in the upscale Ginza district of Tokyo, and off-site. On-site work included the two towers with their energy-supply and piping systems and equipment, while the capsule parts were fabricated and assembled at a factory 450 km (280 mi) from Tokyo.[2]: 109  Five to eight capsules were attached per day, and the capsule attachment process took thirty days to complete.[2]: 105  Due to on-site storage and traffic limitations, only the capsules that were to be attached that day were delivered overnight.[2]: 108–109 

Nobuo Abe was a senior manager, managing one of the design divisions on the construction of the Nakagin Capsule Tower.

As completed, the building was intended to serve mainly visiting businessmen, primarily as a hotel, but offering some studio apartments for short-term stays.[2]: 105  The maximum cost of a capsule was US$14,600 (equivalent to $106,300 in 2023) in 1972.[11]

Update proposals and demolition decision, 2006-2022 edit

Outside and inside views of the Nakagin Capsule Tower while it still existed in 2018.

The capsules could be individually removed or replaced, but at a cost: when demolition was first being considered in 2006, it was estimated that renovation would require approximately ¥6.2 million per capsule. The original concept was that individual capsules would be repaired or replaced every 25 years; but the capsules deteriorated since the repairs were never done.[3]

80% of the capsule owners had to approve demolition,[13] which was first achieved on April 15, 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.[10][14] 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.[14] Kurokawa died in 2007, and for a time a developer for renovation had yet to be found, partly because of the late-2000s recession.[10]

Opposing slated demolition, Nicolai Ouroussoff, architecture critic for The New York Times, described Nakagin Capsule Tower in 2009 as "gorgeous architecture; like all great buildings, it is the crystallization of a far-reaching cultural ideal. Its existence also stands as a powerful reminder of paths not taken, of the possibility of worlds shaped by different sets of values."[10]

In 2010, the hot water to the building was shut off .[15] In 2014 Masato Abe, a capsule owner, former resident and founder of the "Save Nakagin Tower" project stated that the project attempted to gain donations from around the world to purchase all of the capsules and preserve the building.[13] In 2018, a real estate company wanted to redevelop the tower and purchased the land and a few capsules, but failed during the COVID-19 pandemic.[16]

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.[17] As of November 2021, the building housed 20 tenants.[15] An attempt to sell it to a new owner fell through.[15]

Ultimate demolition and digital archive, 2022 edit

The demolition of the tower began on April 12, 2022.[18]

Overlay the digital content of the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building on the physical world through augmented reality created by the 3D Digital Archive Project.

Demolition of the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building began on April 12, 2022. Since the building was regarded as a masterpiece of Metabolist architecture, a project team led by Gluon had launched a 3D digital archiving project to preserve the entire building in 3D data in order to preserve its architectural value. In this project, the entire building was scanned using a combination of laser scan data that accurately measures distances in millimeters and more than 20,000 photographs taken by cameras and drones. Augmented reality of the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building was also unveiled.[19][20][21][22][23]

Since 2022 edit

The Nakagin Capsule Tower Building Preservation and Regeneration Project preserved 23 capsules[3] including A1302, which was saved by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.[24][25] Sixteen of the 23 preserved capsules have new destinations: Shochiku has since put two capsules on permanent display and as of 2024, five capsules will be placed at the coast in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo.[16]

Other Kurokawa capsule constructions edit

Kurokawa completed "Capsule House-K" in 1973, near the resort town of Karuizawa, Nagano, using four capsules the same size as those from the Nakagin Capsule Tower as specialized rooms[d] for a holiday house.[2]: 112–115  "Capsule House-K" was owned by Kurokawa's studio until it went bankrupt, and subsequently was purchased by his son; it was made available for short-term rental for groups of up to seven people through Airbnb starting in May 2022.[26]

Sony Tower (Osaka), detail showing restroom capsule

In 1976, four years after the Nakagin Capsule Tower was completed, a 10-storey showroom for Sony Corporation was completed near Shinsaibashi in Chūō-ku, Osaka, using a similar modular design from Kurokawa with stainless steel-clad capsule restroom modules hung from the central tower.[2]: 120–121 [27] Sony Tower (Osaka) was demolished in 2006.[11]

In popular culture edit

  • Nakagin Capsule Tower was featured in the 2013 superhero film The Wolverine as a love hotel in Hiroshima Prefecture.[28]
  • A building inspired by the Nakagin Capsule Tower appears in the 1994 video game Transport Tycoon.[29]
  • Three documentaries have mentioned the tower as well:
    • Residents of the Nakagin Tower were interviewed in the 2010 documentary Japanese Metabolist Landmark on the Edge of Destruction.[30]
    • Kisho Kurokawa was filmed in the tower for Kochuu (2003), directed by Jesper Wachtmeister,[31] in which he expresses the opinion that "In the background there is still invisible Japanese tradition". He admires the Nakagin capsule tower as the first of capsule architecture built for permanent and practical use. The film explores the influence and origins of Modernist Japanese architecture.[8]
    • Kurokawa was also filmed in the tower for Kisho Kurokawa: From Metabolism to Symbiosis (1993).[32]
  • Photographer Noritaka Minami published 1972, a photo book of the decaying tower, in 2016.[33]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Japanese: 中銀カプセルタワービル, Hepburn: Nakagin Kapuseru Tawā Biru
  2. ^ Maximum height above ground level was 53.5 and 47.4 m (176 and 156 ft) for the 13- and 11-storey towers, respectively.[2]: 107 
  3. ^ Height, width, and length
  4. ^ These are two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a tea ceremony room.[2]: 113 

References edit

  1. ^ Koolhaas, Rem; Obrist, Hans Ulrich (2011). Kayoko Oda; James Westcott (eds.). Project Japan: Metabolism Talks... Taschen. ISBN 978-3836525084.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Kurokawa, Kishō (28 March 2009) [1977]. Metabolism in architecture. London: Studio Vista. ISBN 9780289707333.
  3. ^ a b c d e Stouhi, Dima (3 April 2022). "Nakagin Capsule Tower to be Demolished Mid-April". ArchDaily. Last year, Kisho Kurokawa Architects and Urban Design Office Chiyoda-ku announced that they aim to dismantle the iconic architecture and reuse its capsules as accommodation units and museum installations. The regeneration plan follows the initial concept of "Metabolism", re-configurating the elements instead of complete demolition, all sourced through crowdfunding campaigns, which has already begun on the Motion Gallery site since July 2nd to fund the repairs of the capsules being donated to museums.
  4. ^ Russell, Chris (12 April 2022). "Demolition of Tokyo's iconic Nakagin Capsule Tower officially begins". The Japan Times. Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  5. ^ a b "CNN: Tokyo's iconic Nakagin Capsule Tower to be demolished". CNN. 6 April 2022.
  6. ^ "An ode to Tokyo's Nakagin Capsule Tower". The Economist. 12 April 2022.
  7. ^ Falor, Sanskriti (7 April 2022). "Explained Desk: Explained Why Japan's Nakagin Capsule Tower Being Demolished". Indian Express.
  8. ^ a b Leete, Rebecca Ildikó (17 April 2022). "Kisho Kurokawa's Nakagin Capsule Tower in Visually Captivating Film 'Koshuu'" (Video). ArchDaily.
  9. ^ a b Watanabe (2001), p. 148-149
  10. ^ a b c d e Ouroussoff, Nicolai (7 July 2009). "Architecture: Future Vision Banished to the Past". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  11. ^ a b c d e Lin, Zhongjie (2010). Nakagin Capsule Tower and the Metabolist Movement Revisited (PDF). 98th Annual Meeting Proceedings. Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). pp. 514–524. Retrieved 30 November 2023.
  12. ^ "Works and Projects: Expo '70". Kisho Kurokawa: architect & associates. Retrieved 30 November 2023.
  13. ^ a b Forster, Katie (3 October 2014). "Tokyo's tiny capsules of architectural flair". Japan Times. Archived from the original on 30 December 2016.
  14. ^ a b Solomon, Yuki (30 April 2007). "Kurokawa's Capsule Tower To Be Razed". Architectural Record.
  15. ^ a b c McCurry, Justin (9 November 2021). "Decaying but beloved, Tokyo's Capsule Tower faces uncertain future". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  16. ^ a b Hornyak, Tim (15 January 2024). "In Tokyo, Rescuing the Residential Spaceship That Fell to Earth". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  17. ^ "Tokyo's Nakagin Capsule Tower faces renewed threats of demolition". 12 May 2021.
  18. ^ Stevenson, Reed (9 April 2022). "Farewell Capsule Tower, Tokyo's Oddest Building". Bloomberg CityLab. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  19. ^ "銀座の中銀カプセルタワービルがついに解体、3Dデジタルアーカイブ化始動". TimeOutTokyo. 14 April 2022. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  20. ^ "解体始まる「中銀カプセルタワービル」を丸ごと3D化 保存プロジェクトがスタート". ITmedia. 15 April 2022. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  21. ^ "黒川紀章設計の「中銀カプセルタワービル」 3Dスキャンで記録に残すプロジェクトが始動". AXIS. 13 April 2022. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  22. ^ "黒川紀章設計のメタボリズム建築「中銀カプセルタワービル」を3Dデータで記録に残すプロジェクトが始動". ADFwebmagazine. 13 April 2022. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  23. ^ "Gluon 'using 3D data to save' the Nakagin Capsule Tower". dezeen. 3 August 2022. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  24. ^ "中銀カプセル、サンフランシスコ近代美術館が収蔵…元住人ら保存の23個が各地に" [Nakagin capsule was saved in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ... 23 pieces preserved by former residents are scattered around the country]. Yomiuri Shimbun (in Japanese). 11 June 2023. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  25. ^ Walton, Chris (12 June 2023). "SFMOMA acquires a Nakagin Capsule Tower pod". The Architect's Newspaper. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  26. ^ Niland, Josh (31 August 2022). "Kisho Kurokawa-designed Capsule House K is now one of Japan's most coveted short-term rentals". Archinect News. Retrieved 30 November 2023.
  27. ^ Fores Mundi (1998). "Sony Tower". Architectural Map Japan (in Japanese). Retrieved 30 November 2023.
  28. ^ Movie Locations for The Wolverine Archived 2014-07-15 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved March 15, 2016
  29. ^ Transport Tycoon graphics and their real life counterparts
  30. ^ Nakagin Capsule Tower: Japanese Metabolist Landmark on the Edge of Destruction Nakagin Capsule Tower at IMDb  
  31. ^ Kochuu Nakagin Capsule Tower at IMDb  
  32. ^ Kisho Kurokawa: From Metabolism to Symbiosis 1993 Nakagin Capsule Tower at IMDb  
  33. ^ Recurring views of Tokyo’s utopian dream Mar 12, 2016 Japan Times Retrieved March 15, 2016

Further reading edit

External links edit

  • Kisho Kurokawa portfolio entry
  • Photos of Nakagin Capsule Tower
  • 3D Digital Archive
  • Vanderbilt, Tom (May 2008). "Time Capsule". dwell. pp. 178–182. The fact that the building seems set to be destroyed is strangely poignant: Not only do we lose a sense of how the past imagined the future, we lose a future that never came to be. [...] In his own writings, Kurokawa, a Buddhist, offered a fitting and, especially now, quite haunting encomium to the capsule tower: 'We used to consider things that could live forever to be beautiful. But this way of thinking has been exposed as a lie. True beauty lies in things that die, things that change.'