Green Architecture Spotlight: Nakagin Capsule Tower

| 7/14/2009 3:35:36 PM

Another giant has fallen. After two years of fruitless preservation attempts, a cultural icon, the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Japan, is going to be razed.

Designed by architect Kisho Kurakawa, the Tower was completed in 1972. It was intended to serve as a bachelor hotel for businessmen working in the affluent Tokyo neighborhood of Ginza. Kurakawa was a leader in the Metabolist movement of the 1960s and 1970s which envisioned cities formed of modular components designed for flexible and organic growth.

nakagin capsule tower
The Nakagin Capsule Tower in Japan was an architectural icon. Photo By damon.garrett/ Courtesy Flickr 

The Nakagin Capsule Tower was the world’s first example of capsule structural design built for actual use. Two towers rise 11 and 13 stories respectively, and are surrounded by an outer layer of prefabricated living units attached to the core by high tension bolts. The 140 capsules on the Tower were all pre-assembled in a factory, and although the capsules can be added or removed as necessary, none of them have been replaced since construction.

Capsules act as offices or small living spaces, and can be linked together to create a larger space. A one-person capsule is 4 meters by 2.5 meters and contains a built-in bed, bathroom, circular window, kitchen stove, refrigerator, TV and tape deck.

The Nakagin Capsule Tower has become emblematic of post-war Japan. So why is a building of such historic and cultural value going down?