The End of an Icon
12. April 2022
Photo: Ryogo Utatsu/Neoplus Sixten Inc.
Today, April 12, marks the start of the demolition of one of the most important works of postwar architecture in Japan: Nakagin Capsule Tower, designed by Kisho Kurokawa and completed exactly fifty years ago. Japan-Architects curator Ryogo Utatsu sent us some photos he took today, before scaffolding shrouds the building's capsules.
Located in Tokyo's Shimbashi District, Nakagin Capsule Tower is famous worldwide as one of the few built examples of Metabolism, the avant-garde movement started by a group of Japanese architects at the World Design Conference in 1960. Speculating on how architecture can change and evolve almost organically as a means of rebuilding society after World War II, the Metabolists made numerous proposals for buildings made with capsules that could be plugged in, removed, moved, and plugged in again as needed. Kurokawa, one of the movement's founders, managed to achieve just that with Nakagin Capsule Tower, where 140 prefabricated, fully fitted residential capsules were bolted to two concrete cores. Intended to be moved as needed — even to other capsule towers in other places — the shipping container-size capsules never strayed from their original positions, though, and no other capsule towers were ever built to receive them. Deferred maintenance and increasing costs of repairing the capsules, which would require asbestos abatement, led to calls for demolition of the tower this century — and eventually to today's unfortunately timed milestone.