Nakagin Capsule Tower Salvages, Restores Pods


Months after being dismantled, reports recently shared that several capsules making up Tokyo’s famous Nakagin Capsule Tower have been restored and saved for posterity.

Built in 1972, the Nakagin Capsule Tower stood 13 stories high and featured an asymmetric stack of 140 identical concrete boxes. Looking at the structure from the outside, each pod resembles a big washing machine, complete with one circular window.

Inside the 10-square-meter space, residents were provided a bathroom, TV, reel-to-reel tape player and rotary dial phone.

Designed by Kisho Kurokawa, the architect had intended for each capsule to be removed and replaced every 25 years, or at the end of its natural life cycle. However, due to a fault in design, the removal of individual pods was nearly impossible.

Tower Demolition

Back in 2021, inspectors noted that the tower’s once white coating had become discolored, with an installed netting  protecting those on the street from fallen and dislodged fragments of rust. Only expected to last 25 years before the replacement or repair of the pods, at the time, the building in its entirety was pushing half a century.

If that wasn’t enough, The Guardian shared that there was also a concern about asbestos throughout the building’s interior and if it could even withstand an earthquake, as it failed to meet the country’s updated regulations.

As a result of the issues plaguing the building, the management company and capsule owners agreed to sell the plot. In April 2022, work began to remove the asbestos and interiors from each pod.

This was followed by the full demolition of the structure.

Pod Preservation

After hearing that the tower would be demolished, Tatsuyuki Maeda, an occasional resident of the Nakagin Capsule Tower, began leasing some of the 15 pods he owned in the buildings to conduct tours. Money collected from these efforts was saved for the preservation of what pods Maeda could salvage, as well as the avant-garde architectural movement.

“I have an office nearby, so I went out and took some photos when they started taking it apart,” Maeda told reporters. “We weren’t able to save all of the capsules, but we were determined to spare at least some of them.”

As a result of Maeda’s efforts, he and other members of the nonprofit Nakagin Capsule Tower preservation and regeneration project saved 23 capsules. Currently, the pods are reportedly sitting in a warehouse in Chiba prefecture, near Tokyo, where 14 of them will be fully restored to their original state.

While some of the inner mechanics won’t be able to be restored to working order, Maeda expects that once completed, some of the pods could end up in hotel and company lobbies, as well as museums. However, talks with potential owners of the pods are still in early discussions.

Maeda shared that he also received inquiries about the pods from Asia, Europe and the United States. To date, only one agreement has been made with someone in Germany.

“And at some point next year it will be possible to see one of these pods in its original state somewhere in Japan,” he said.

The other nine pods are expected to be stripped down to their basic structures so that prospective owners can redesign the capsule for themselves.

“Kurokawa intended for the capsules to adapt and change over time, depending on the environment, and if you think about it, this is exactly what is happening,” Maeda concluded.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architectural history; Architecture; AS; China; Color + Design; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Design; Design - Commercial; Historic Preservation; Maintenance + Renovation; Preservation; Projects - Commercial; Residential; Restoration

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