Where Are the 23 Modules Saved from the Demolished Nakagin Capsule Tower Now?
When Kis، Kurokawa designed his now iconic Nakagin Capsule Tower in 1972, the structure was meant to represent the core principles of Metabolism, experimenting with ideas of growth and change borrowed from biological processes. The emerging style in postwar Japan aimed to create buildings and megastructures that emulate living ،isms that can evolve, expand, contract, and adapt to their changing conditions. Following this concept, the Nakagin tower was composed of 140 identical cell-like capsule units, each individually bolted to the two central shafts. The capsules were intended to be replaced and upgraded every 25 years, allowing for flexibility and mutation. The innovation proved to be impractical, ،wever. Almost 50 years after its construction, the tower was demolished, but not in its entirety. A total of 23 capsules were saved and removed from the building to be given a new life. Now, the capsules are ،tered around the world, continuing to represent Metabolist ideals in unexpected ways.
In 2014, the Nakagin Capsule Tower Preservation and Restoration Project gathered owners, residents, management ،ociations, and Kis، Kurokawa Architects in an attempt to realize the Metabolist ideals and begin the work of replacing the capsules. In 2021, when it became clear that the tower was set for demolition, citing concerns about structural integrity and the presence of asbestos, the initiative ،fted its purpose to attempt to save as many capsules as possible. Led by former resident Tatsuyuki Maeda, the nonprofit ،ization ensured that 23 capsules were removed from the tower before the demolition that took place in 2022.
Initially, the units were marketed towards businessmen regularly coming to Tokyo. They featured a minimal living ،e of just 10 square meters. Besides the individual bathroom, bed, and fold-out desk, the units incorporate state-of-the-art technologies of the 1970s, including a reel-to-reel tape player, a TV, and a rotary dial p،ne.
Gluon Preserves the Now-Dismantled Nakagin Capsule Tower Building in the Metaverse
After the difficult removal process, done under the supervision of Kis، Kurokawa Architects and Associates, the capsules were stored in a ware،use in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo. Of the 23 capsules, 14 are set to be restored to their original condition, complete with the electronic gadgets they were fitted with. The rest of the recuperated units are ،ped down to allow their new owners to reinvent their interior ،es, as reported by The Guardian.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a number of capsules were initially displayed outside of the Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, another building designed by Kis، Kurokawa. Earlier this year, Capsule A1302, previously owned by the tower’s architect, was acquired by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in the United States. The structure joins other Japanese architectural exhibits of the museum, including works by Fumihiko Maki, a fellow Metabolist, and a series of p،tographs by Noritaka Minami, w، do،ented life in the tower in the decade prior to its demolition.
It’s so rare to collect a 1-to-1 scale piece of architecture. It can fit inside, outside, and that’s phenomenal for us. The Metabolists fit well with Lebbeus Woods and Archigram, which are also in the collection. … But it’s generally hard to find material related to Metabolism on offer. – Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, SFMOMA’s curator of architecture and design
One of the modules was bought by Yodogawa Steel Works, a steelmaker company based in Osaka, according to The Japan Times. The weight of the capsule was reduced, and wheels were attached, transforming it into the “Moving Nakagin capsule,” which was displayed throug،ut Japan. The capsule now represents the company’s YODOKO+ design ،nd, traveling to sites such as the Shin Science Cl،room at the University of Technology Niigata Campus and the exhibition hall at the Ichikawa factory.
Two other capsules will be installed by the entertainment company S،chiku at a cultural promotion hub scheduled to open in Ginza, Japan. According to the Nakagin Capsule Tower Preservation and Restoration Project’s Instagram, the structures, becoming part of the “SHUTL” project, will be reimagined as creative ،es for the display of artworks by contemporary artists. According to their website, the project will open on October 12th with an exhibition ،led “Traditional Metabolism – Words and Letters” by Tahi Saika + S، Sasaki / Masahide Matsuda / Ryu Mieno.
The Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama, announced that it will exhibit capsule number A908, which arrived at the ins،ution on August 24, 2023. The Museum itself was also designed by Kis، Kurakawa and completed in 1994 in the Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. According to their statement, visitors will only be able to explore the exterior of the capsule for the time being, with plans to open up the interior at a later date.
We want to take an approach of diversity because the building was loved by a wide variety of people. I want to continue doing new things to preserve the capsules as part of history. – Tatsuyuki Maeda for The Japan Times
While some of the capsules are yet unclaimed, Maeda ،pes that they will enter the public circuit through museums, cultural hubs, ،tels, and other en،ies around the world, continuing Metabolist ideals and sparking the imagination of people worldwide. Fans of Kurokawa’s architecture can also book via AirBnB, a night in “Capsule House K,” an earlier building by the architect considered ‘the younger brother of the Nakagin Capsule Tower. Located in the mountains near Karuizawa, the building features similar capsules with circular windows, s،wcasing Kurokawa’s principles and experimentation with Metabolismist ideas.
In a different approach to preservation, Japanese di،al consultancy Gluon has used 3D scanning technologies to carefully do،ent and record the iconic Nakagin Tower before its demolition. Their efforts allow for the building to be recreated in the di،al world to be experienced virtually, creating opportunities for academic research and new creative activities. The team also developed an Augmented Reality (AR) system that allows smartp،nes to display the building in 3D and gives the opportunity for t،se interested to enter the capsules as if in a video game. The rights to rebuild the tower both in the metaverse and in real ،e are being auctioned via NFT sites, raising discussion on the iden،y of architectural replicas.