It was designed with an eye to the future, but for Tokyo’s Nakagin Capsule Tower, its own future is now very limited.
Within a week, the building adored by architects and tourists, and featured in countless movies and TV shows, will be demolished.
The now dilapidated Chuo Ward Tower in Tokyo is revered as a prime example of the metabolism architectural movement.
Opened after a two-year construction in 1972, it was designed by architect Kishi Kurokawa (1934-2007), who imagined that the 140 capsules could be individually removed and replaced to ensure the tower’s longevity.
Each capsule housed in two concrete towers, 11 and 13 stories tall, was its own self-contained apartment.
Space was limited to just 2.5m by 4m, with a large porthole at one end above the bed. They have been designed with the single businessman in mind and come with all the latest modern amenities including a TV and reel tape recorder. Each capsule was created off-site and then shipped.
But despite the original plan to update each of the capsules every 25 years, this never happened. The building, despite starring roles in The Wolverine movies and the Heroes Reborn TV series, has fallen into disrepair.
Over the years, most capsules have been discontinued, becoming little more than storage units. A proposed sale of the building fell victim to the financial crash of 2008, but was eventually bought by a property developer in March last year. Despite the disrepair, at least 20 tenants were still calling the tower at the end of 2021.
However, they are all gone now, and on April 12, demolition work on the building will begin.
It will be a sad day for those who tried to protect the building, including Tatsuyuki Maeda of the Nakagin Capsule Tower Preservation and Regeneration Project.
He told CNN he’s purchased 15 of the units since 2010.
“Japan has no legislation to preserve this kind of architectural culture,” Maeda said.
“It is regrettable that one of the most representative examples of the country’s modern architectural heritage has been lost.”