Nakagin Capsule Tower 中銀カプセルタワービル

Subtle, it ain't. Nakagin looking ever so slightly more run down than it's shiny neighbours.
Subtle, it ain't. Nakagin looking ever so slightly more run down than it's shiny neighbours.

After a busy day on Odaiba お台場 island back in September 2016, I thought I’d pay another visit to this iconic example of Japanese metabolic architecture to try and get some better shots than the high ISO grainy messes that I managed first time around (you won’t see me posting those – trust me, they’re awful).

One of my absolute favourite buildings, the Nakagin Capsule Tower 中銀カプセルタワービル is situated in the business oriented Shimbashi 新橋 district of Tokyo City 東京. Designed by Kisho Kurokawa 黒川紀章 and completed in 1972, it consists of 140 prefabricated pods that can be freely detached and reattached to 2 tower cores (which contain the elevator and stairwells), in numerous configurations – the idea being that the design would continuously be evolving to suit the needs of the inhabitants. The potential was never fully realised though – difficulty in removing the capsules (removing one, necessitates the removal of the unit adjoining it from above), along with the fact that as far as I can tell, no more were produced after it’s construction; as well as the shared ownership of the building between capsule owners requiring majority approval for alterations, has lead to the dereliction of nearly half of the units.

A close up of the prefabricated capsules that comprise Nakagin - looking very much like endless stacks of washing machines.
A close up of the prefabricated capsules that comprise Nakagin - looking very much like endless stacks of washing machines.

Plans for demolition were set in motion in 2007 due to concerns regarding it’s earthquake resilience alongside potential asbestos exposure resulting from the degradation of many of the capsules, however it was saved by the liquidation of the demolition company – itself a victim of the 2008/2009 global financial crisis and since then preservation efforts have been ongoing, spearheaded by the DOCOMOMO organisation. Given it’s location in a major business district, with the major centres of Shibuya 渋谷区, Shinjuku 新宿区 and Chūō 中央区 close by, the land must be worth a fortune, yet long term rental rates seem fairly reasonable to me at around $600 per month. I was almost tempted to stay a night in one of the units that some owners have decided to advertise online, but at around $200 USD per night for short term stays, along with AirBnB’s dubious legality in Japan, I somehow decided against it.
You can probably recreate the experience on the cheap if you like by stringing up some colourful Christmas lights outside a tumble drier before locking yourself inside. Just remember not to turn it on – that’s earthquake mode.

More info on Nakagin can be found in this article here, and I also found an informative blog post that details how the capsules are affixed and interchanged,

Previous
Next