Tokyo 1972 | Nakagin Capsule Tower 2

The 14-stories high tower has a total of 140 capsules stacked at angles around a central core. The prefabricated capsules were installed to the concrete core with only 4 high-tension bolts, which allows the capsules to be replaceable. These capsules were manufactured in a factory in Shiga Prefecture then transported to the site by truck. The prefabricated capsules were assembled with built-in furniture and wall-mounted appliances like typewriters.
Photo of the interior space © 2006, Arcspace
Photo of the interior space © 2006, Arcspace
Photo of the wall-mounted appliances © 2006, Arcspace
Photo of the wall-mounted appliances © 2006, Arcspace
Each capsule measures 4 x 2.5 meters, which is comfortable enough for one person to live in. Each module can be connected to the other capsules to manipulate the interior space.

Architectural History in tiny Tokyo Capsules © 2014, AFP News Agency 


The video allows us to have a glimpse at the interior space of the tower and illustrates the doubtful future of the Nakagin Capsule tower due to a lack of agreement between capsule owners on how to address the maintenance issues that affects the tower.

The capsule architecture design, the interpretation of the capsule as room and the insertion of the capsule into the mega-structure, well express the contemporaneousness with other architecture from the late 1960s. Not only is the Nakagin Capsule Tower unique in design, it also strives to establish a space for the individual as a criticism to Japan that its development and modernisation lack the consideration or establishment of “self”.

The realization of metabolism, recyclability and feasibility as a sustainable architecture allows the tower to become short-listed for the World Heritage by the Inter-national Committee of Docomomo International since 1996.


Source: Archdaily, Arcspace

3 Comments on “Tokyo 1972 | Nakagin Capsule Tower 2

  1. I agree very much on the capsule tower being an attempt to retrieve individual identity within the contemporary city. In fact Kisho Kurokawa, the architect of the tower proposed a scheme to modify it hoping to meet today’s daily needs. Unfortunately he passed away before any of it could be realized, and very much a pity that organic interchangeable idea as the key of metabolism was never executed.
    However its failure seemed to be a valuable lesson too- as we think about maximizing flexibility of architecture and the ideal vision of having structures that instead of being torn down after getting old can be bit by bit replaced and sustain through time. In reality whether users would operate the changes themselves, how much of the flexibility was really needed, also problems in maintaining the structure are some of the things to consider.
    Provocative it might be, the capsule tower did not live up to Tokyo citizen’s expectations. Although designed to be adaptable, it was poorly maintained and with structural flaws and lack of certain basic equipment. None of the capsules were even moved after the building completed. I wonder what stopped it from “metabolizing”, whether it was due to the short of capital, structural problems or users were unwilling to change? Did Kurokawa himself expect this or was there something he missed out as he designed? However to me the fact that it remained the same all these years made it eventually outdated, which was ironically what it wanted to avoid in first place.

  2. The Nakagin capsule tower is a pioneering idea in showing very dense flexible residential spaces for a dense surrounding urban fabric.
    The last sentence of the video we heard from the narrator was “One things that people might agree on, is if this building is demolished, there is a little chance that we will see a building like it anytime soon.”
    The question is, should we demolish all the buildings that do not fit profitable return and leaves the experimentation ground over the building that is already “working”? Then how overcome the problems leaves by the Capsule Tower? Is it only a fantasy that is without any solution than destruction?
    With the rapid expansion of the cities and the demand of residential building, architects have to answer to the question of density, effective structure and the ecological footprint. We start to see projects rehabilitating container into housing and stacks them up to build a building. The problematic of Kisho Kurokawa in the 1972s then start to rise again. How can the structure change to avoid to take off all the capsules in order to reach the very down one? Maybe by answering to that question, the fact that this project is a lacking into the consideration of one “self” can also be taking into account.

  3. The Nakagin tower is certainly a pronounced realization of the Metabolist movement during the 60s. It is noted that humanism, metabolism and structural reorganization of Japan were always been framed in the context of Tokyo. Tokyo in the 1960s subjected to immense economic expansion that population was rocketing. The nature of the Tokyo city of 10,000,000 propels vigorous discussions on true nature of function and the ideals for development. The Metabolist group was ‘seeking a form of organization responsive to dynamic patterns of urban flow and changing function’. They approached the city as a living organism that displays growth and change in time. The physical structure of Tokyo was manifested to inhabit organic nature from the existing communication network. We can indeed see significant indications and make derivations on why Metabolist movement was deeply rooted in the context of Tokyo as such.

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