Nakagin Capsule Tower: The Future That Fortunately Was Never

Today I will present an architectural current that is sure that very few know: the metabolism, whose first built exponent was the Nakagin Capsule Tower, a residential building capsule in Tokyo that symbolized the future that fortunately was never.

This tower was designed in 1970 by Kusho Kurokawa, father of the current metabolism and one of Japanese contemporary architects of major until his death in 2007. Built just two years later, it was the first building of its kind in the world, and it is easy to imagine that it obtained its inspiration the famous Japanese capsule hotels.

The original idea of the tower was to host small houses for those people who had a house in the suburbs but wanted or needed a place to stay in the Centre of the city, although it was also attractive for singles. Located in the shopping district of Ginza, where prices are prohibitive for a normal size House and the solar is worth nearly ten times more than what is built on the.

The set consists actually by two interconnected towers, each of which served as a structure on which to anchor different capsules – cantilever, with only four points from Anchorage to dismantle independently – and housed the main services: elevators, stairs and other facilities.

As it could not be otherwise, the Nakagin Capsule Tower meets the four precepts that the own Kurokawa considers indisputable part of the metabolism movement:

  • Impermanence: A flexible, versatile and temporary architecture. Initially, the capsules had to be replaced every 25 years in order to adapt their design to modern times, in addition, capsules, 2.3 x 3.8 x 2.1 m, you could combine together to form larger homes.
  • Materiality: Honesty of materials. What you see is what there is. Capsules are built in steel, shipping containers-style, and that’s what you see. The structure of the building is made of concrete.
  • Receptivity: It refers to the facility to adopt techniques and styles of other cultures, in this case the international movement, although this had failed in Japan.
  • Detail: You can see in it worked that is inside of the capsules, with integrated, furniture appliances to measure, central heating…

The decline of an idea

The proposal of Kusho Kurokawa was a revolution. It was a good idea to spend the night if the next day we had an important meeting or had later become us to return home, even as a House for a single.

However, despite the fact that at the time he received many accolades and critical acclaim, soon saw that the idea would not prosper and the reality is that the building is almost empty -are only occupied 30 144 capsules – and so deteriorated that its demolition despite the efforts of many institutions that will preserve and restore is scheduled.

But apart from basic maintenance issues, patents from the facade, the building poses two major problems, being the largest of these scarce use of soil, the most important asset in Tokyo. Have to give access to as many housing units carries lot surface of stairs and distribution, so at the end you lose more than it earns.

On the other hand, it is the issue of the update of the capsules. When they were designed in the 70s had incorporated the latest technology: color TV, sound equipment, phone… but all of that is already outdated, and replace the capsules as anticipated the architect would be more expensive to demolish the building and get one with better use of the solar.

In my opinion, it would be a shame that a building as the Nakagin Capsule Tower disappeared, although more is currently the live image of the future that fortunately never was that a fully functional building, continues to be the first building of a revolutionary movement as it was metabolism.