During our first visit to see Kisho Kurokawa’s 1972 Nakagin Capsule Tower in the Ginza area of Tokyo, Japan we were unable to get inside. Since then we have been determined to return and look beyond the urban decay of the concrete structure for a better understanding of this innovative design concept and experience first hand the world’s first example of capsule architecture. The Nakagin Capsule Tower is a rare example of Japanese Metabolism, an architectural movement inherently conceptual, that fuses ideas of sustainability and recyclability with architectural structures and human society. As the community grows or declines the flexible design allows for the capsules to be added, individually removed or replaced. The capsules are fastened to one of the two buildings main shafts by just four tension bolts.
Recently, we returned back to Japan and after several attempts, we finally succeeded to locate someone that would rent us one of the capsules in the tower for our stay. Upon arrival and once inside every open door and all floors were ours to explore. The labyrinth of a staircase was difficult to navigate through and it took a while to determine there were two towers with a total of 140 capsules that were stacked and rotated around a central core, standing respectively eleven and thirteen floors. The most interesting part of the visit was the extreme difference of conditions the capsules were in. Some of the capsules had been left in a dilapidated state, abandoned with mildew and moss growing from the floor and remained somewhat a mystery on what one would find behind closed doors. Other capsules were well-maintained and minimally designed offices, full–time rental and permanent residence units in which one could peer through the clean glass doors and see beyond the polished floors.
We were lucky to experience this modernist masterpiece first-hand. The Nakagin Capsule Tower is a fascinating, a pure example of architectural innovation. Definitely one in which we will continue to hold in high regard as a cultural landmark, a symbol of conceptual ambition and experimentation.
Future to Come – The Nakagin Capsule Tower