Last edited 10 May 2021

Main author

Michael Brooks

Nakagin Capsule Tower


The Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo, Japan is a 14-storey tower consisting of 140 individual capsule units. Designed by the architect Kurokawa Kisho and constructed in 1972, the tower was intended to serve as a prototype for a new type of functional urban accommodation, and is seen as one of the foremost examples of the metabolist architecture movement that developed in post-war Japan.

The idea behind metabolism was that buildings developed, apparently organically, in response to their environment, with the ability to be adaptable. This idea was evident in the minimalist design of the Nakagin Capsule Tower in which individual capsules that were manufactured offsite were attached to two interconnected concrete towers. The capsules could be replaced and modified as required, with mixed use functionality including living and office space.

Unfortunately, like many ‘flexible’ buildings, this adaptability was never used. Despite the original intention, none of the capsules were ever replaced and the tower eventually fell into disrepair. In recent years it has faced threats of demolition as renovation plans have failed, although it has started opening for access to tourists through sites such as Airbnb.

Despite setbacks, the tower remains a striking futurist design for urban living and the world’s first example of capsule architecture.

[edit] 2021 update

The Nakagin Capsule Tower was sold to the landowner in 2021. Its fate continues to be in jeopardy, due to structural issues related to seismic requirements.


--Michael Brooks

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