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Distributed Japanese capsules

Japanese Metabolism was a post-war architectural movement that was based around the idea that cities and buildings should be able to grow and transform just like other organisms. There are other elements to the movement, but this was at its core. And perhaps the best example of the Metabolism movement was the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo (pictured above).

Constructed between 1970 and 1972, the 13-storey tower consisted of two structural elements and 140 self-contained / prefabricated capsules that were hung off the building’s cores.

The original intent was that these capsules could be removed and replaced over time and that the building could evolve just like any other organism might. But that never really happened and, coming on the end, only about 30 of the 140 capsules were apparently still being lived in, with the others being used for various purposes, such as storage, or not at all.

And so after a whole lot of debate, the building was disassembled earlier this year, which isn’t quite the same as a straight demolition. The pods were removed and then the core came down.

But a number of the pods have been salvaged. The architect’s family took 4 pods and created an Airbnb retreat a few hours outside of Tokyo. And a longtime resident in the building decided to quit his job, acquire 23 of the capsules, and dedicate his life to now getting these things into museums and other commercial settings.

I don’t feel like it’s my place to comment on whether disassembling the tower was a good idea or not. But I do think there’s something poetic about an icon of Metabolism having its capsules removed, restored, and then sprinkled around various places. Wasn’t that always kind of the intent?

Photo by Roman Davydko on Unsplash

1 Comment so far

  1. Steven Heuchert

    I stayed here in a makeshift airbnb a few years ago. No hot water and had to shower at the owner’s friends flat down the street! Quite an experience and a dream for someone who likes to photograph buildings. The unit was original and the overall building highly deteriorated. Lucky no earthquake! I think the majority of unit owners wanted the building to deteriorate so they could monetize the cleared land which is what holds value in Japan. This makes sense in the flashiest part of Tokyo (Ginza). But it was sad to see it go and I’m glad some the units are preserved, but it won’t be the same outside of the context.

    Liked by 1 person

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