Nakagin Capsule Tower

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Once you arrive in Tokyo’s busy commercial district of Shimbashi, a short walk from the station brings you to a noisy highway overpass, and beside that the futuristic Nakagin Capsule Tower. The tower’s stunning design may strike passersby as something straight out of a science-fiction movie, but it stands as a unique architectural beacon amongst the common apartment high-rises and office buildings of Ginza. Designed by the late Japanese architect Kurokawa Kisho, the 14-story tower is composed of 140 individual capsules that function as apartments and business offices. The tower has also served as a prototype of sorts for uniquely Japanese urban accommodations, such as business and capsule hotels.
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Constructed in 1972, the tower is a prime example of Kisho’s Metabolism architecture movement that focused on adaptable, growing, and interchangeable building designs. Metabolism — the word suggesting organic growth that responds to its environment — influenced every step of the tower’s construction. The capsules were manufactured in a factory in Shiga Prefecture and transported to Tokyo by truck. They were then attached to the tower’s central beam. The capsules were designed to be removable and replaceable from the central beam. Even the seemingly small space inside the capsules can be modified — it can be increased by connecting capsules to other capsules. The tower’s simple, minimalist design was deliberate. As a Metabolist building, Kurokawa believed that the inherent beauty of materials like concrete and steel meant that they didn’t need any special modifications or decorations.

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