The Unique Nakagin Capsule Tower

Traditional Japanese architecture predominantly made use  of wood because of the abundance of timber in the country. Timber is particularly resistant to natural disasters such as earthquakes. Wood is also an ideal type of material for Japan’s humid climate. Modern Japanese architecture is a far cry from the traditional style: the mid-20th century was a time of great experimentation in Japanese architecture. Many architects sought to break boundaries and create original designs. One such example is the Nakagin Tower.

Nakagin Tower. | d’s2nd

The Nakagin Capsule Tower is a product of the Metabolism (shinchintaisha) architectural style, a post-war Japanese architectural movement that fused ideas about architectural megastructures with those of organic biological growth, spearheaded by Kisho Kurokawa. A capsule hotel, kapuseru hoteru, is a popular type of affordable accommodation in Japan for the weary traveler who may have had a bit too much to drink, missed the last train home, or needs a place to sleep for the night that has basic amenities without the services offered by other regular hotels.

A typical capsule is made of fiberglass a little over 6 ft. long and 4 ft. wide. It has enough room for you to sleep comfortably in (provided you’re not over 6 ft. tall), and some capsules are big enough for you to sit upright. Most pods are equipped with a small television, wireless internet connection, small console, dimmable lighting, and wall-mounted alarm clock. To ensure your privacy, the capsules have curtains and a door at one end.

Nacagin Capsule Tower. |d’n’c

The Nakagin Capsule Tower consists of two separate towers that serve as support for the 140 prefabricated capsules. Each capsule is a tiny apartment that has many amenities such as a refrigerator, a television set, even a reel-to-reel tape deck. The original idea of the concept of the tower is that each capsule can be eventually replaced by newer models. This ensures that the living standards in the building will be constantly up to date.

Inside the Nakagin Capsule. | 準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia

As elegant and one of a kind the building may seem, the tiny apartments were considered to be cramped, with a gigantic concrete shell considered as ugly and dehumanizing. The maintenance cost started to pile up and the real-estate value in the center of the Ginza district began to collapse. The building was slated to be demolished in 2007, but an uproar arose among the architectural community, who consider the building a masterpiece. Kurokawa led the campaign for its preservation until the end of his life. As of April 2014, the Save Nakagin Capsule Tower Project has begun crowd-sourcing funds to buy the tower’s capsules and secure voting rights against the Tower’s demolition.