Tokyo Capsule Hotels - Photo: Nagakin Capsule Tower, © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

Tokyo Capsule Hotels – Photo: Nagakin Capsule Tower, © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

Photo Essay – Archipanic explores the history of Tokyo capsule hotels, overnight accommodations featuring a large number of extremely small sleeping units – roughly 200 by 100 by 125 cm. Born as cheap and fuss-free overnight solutions, new luxury pods are popping out across the city. But it all started from architects’ visions in postwar Japan, and from the endangered Nakagin Capsule Tower, now documented by Noritaka Minami in the book 1972.


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Tokyo Capsule Hotel - Photo by Fougerouse Arnaud CC

Tokyo Capsule Hotel – Photo by Fougerouse Arnaud, CC.

Nakagin Capsule Tower is an experimental apartment complex composed of 140 concrete prefabricated removable capsules stacked on top of each others. Each cube measures about 4 m by 2.5 m and features a compact temporary living unit for travelers and commuters.

Nagakin Capsule Tower - © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

Nagakin Capsule Tower (NCT) – © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

In the book 1972 (Kehrer Verlag), Noritaka Minami documents the current state of individual capsules as a response to their potential disappearance. Today only about 30 of the 140 modules are inhabited. Without maintenance for almost 40 years, the building has fallen into disrepair and risks demolition despite the efforts of the international architecture community.

NCT: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

NCT: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

Completed in 1972, Nakagin Capsule Tower was designed by Kisho Kurokawa according to the values of the Metabolist avanguarde. In postwar Japan founders of Metabolism envisioned a fluid and dynamic city made of adaptable, growing and interchangeable building designs. Noritaka Minami photographs examine what became of a building that first opened as a radical prototype for a new mode of living in post-industrial society and how this vision of the future appears in retrospect.

NCT: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

NCT: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

One of the legacies of Metabolism in contemporary Tokyo is that they proposed an ambitious approach in thinking about design on a scale beyond a specific building.” Says Noritaka Minami to Archipanic. “The city itself became the site of the architect’s work.  Their influence on urban design continues to this day when a section of Tokyo undergoes a major redevelopment in order to create a new city within the existing city.”

NCT: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

NCT: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

Seven years after Nakagin Capsule Tower, Kisho Kurokawa was involved in the development of the first capsule hotel in Osaka. “Today, the concept of a capsule finally found commercial viability but in a form greatly modified from the original architectural and social ambitions tied to Metabolist architecture.” Adds Minami.

NCT: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

NCT: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

Indeed, capsule hotels have become a trend and a tourist attraction as well. Tokyo business oriented imprint allowed the surge of luxury cabin hotels. Fancy sleeping units providing some of the commodities of 5 stars hotels compacted in few cubic meters, and at the “modest” price of 200 € per night.

Nakagin Capsule Tower photos: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

Cover of "1972" published by Kehrer Verlag: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

Cover of “1972” published by Kehrer Verlag: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

NCT: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

NCT: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

NCT: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.

NCT: © Noritaka Minami, Courtesy Kana Kawanishi Gallery.