Featured Post

Japan's Original Capsule Hotel

Kurokawa Kisho's Nakagin Capsule Tower in 1972

Exterior of Kurokawa Kisho's Nakagin Capsule Tower

Space Age interior of Kurokawa Kisho's Nakagin Capsule Tower

Space Age interior of Kurokawa Kisho's Nakagin Capsule Tower

Nakagin Capsule Tower by Japanese modern architect Kurokawa Kisho

Japan's original capsule hotel tower! One of the most unique and daring constructions ever created; the Nakagin Capsule Tower by Japanese modern architect Kurokawa Kisho.  Japan's first and most original capsule hotel!  The iconic capsule tower was constructed in 1972. Each capsule sold for between $10,000 and $14,000 within one month of erection in 1972. The capsules were factory lifted into its position, complete with everything inside of them. Capsules were sold with bathroom units containing a toiled & shower, a bed, wardrobe and cupboards, a fold-out desk & lamp, air-conditioner, telephone, radio, tv, calculator and a reel to reel player.It was the first building of its kind with space age interiors that remind us of the Joe Colombo designed Visiona interiors of Bayer AG (early 1970s).  The Nakagin Capsule Tower is located in Shimbashi Tokyo within a short walk from the train station.  The tower’s stunning design may strike passersby as something straight out of a science-fiction movie, but it stands as a unique architectural beacon amongst the common apartment high-rises and office buildings of Ginza. Designed by the late Japanese architect Kurokawa Kisho, the 14-story tower is composed of 140 individual capsules that function as apartments and business offices. The tower has also served as a prototype of sorts for uniquely Japanese urban accommodations, such as business and capsule hotels. Opinions on the quality of the living environment of the capsules vary widely: some love their small impact and footprint on the environment, while other people find them too claustrophobic. Keep in mind however, that the architect never intended these to house a full family with children and inlaws, the capsules were intended as single bedroom dwellings, studios for far commuting businessmen and short stay hotel rooms.

Kurokawa Kisho designed the building so that its capsules could be removed and replaced every 25 year, at that time the estimate life span of the capsules.  As we know, the capsules have never been replaced.  They have far exceeded their life span with 39 years and counting.  But unfortunately, with 140 residents, ownership of the building is divided among them.  Some of these owners don't really care about the value of the architecture, and use the capsules as "storage spaces" so they have become like a visual eye-sore from the outside.  Most of them became owners of the capsules through inheritance.  So while their fathers may have loved owning the capsules, they have merely inherited them and aren't very interested to preserve the building with its capsules.  So there are no particular calls for the building's preservation coming from residents.  Another aspect is that an American hedge fund company, in a strike of reversal of fortunes from the 1970s era of Japanese influence, has bought the Nakagin company.  Nakagin had gone bankrupt.  After that, the hedge fund came in and bought the company.  The hedge fund wants to demolish the building and build a new bigger building in its place. So the future of the tower is uncertain unless a substantial preservation plan can be formed and accepted. The possible demolition would be a disappointing loss for Japanese architecture, as few of Kurokawa’s Metabolist buildings remain in Japan.

Constructed in 1972, the tower is a prime example of Kisho’s Metabolism architecture movement that focused on adaptable, growing, and interchangeable building designs. Metabolism — the word suggesting organic growth that responds to its environment — influenced every step of the tower’s construction. The capsules were manufactured in a factory in Shiga Prefecture and transported to Tokyo by truck. They were then attached to the tower’s central beam. The capsules were designed to be removable and replaceable from the central beam. Even the seemingly small space inside the capsules can be modified — it can be increased by connecting capsules to other capsules. The tower’s simple, minimalist design was deliberate. As a Metabolist building, Kurokawa believed that the inherent beauty of materials like concrete and steel meant that they didn’t need any special modifications or decorations.