Neglected architecture – In the thriving and glimmering district of Ginza, Tokyo, just around the corner from fancy retail extravaganza and a kaleidoscope of neons, there is an architectural ‘broken dream’: the Nagakin Capsule Tower. 144 cubic residential concrete modules stacked onto each other compose the 13-story mixed-use office and residential building designed by Kisho Kurokawa and completed in 1972.
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A broken dream because the tower reflected the sci-fi vision of the iconic Metabolist movement, which imagined a fluid metropolis made of adaptable, growing and interchangeable building designs. Such a future never became true. Without maintenance for over 40 years, the Nagakin Capsule Tower has fallen into disrepair. “The building is set to be completely dismantled on April 12, 2022,” said Tatsuyuki Maeda, leading the Nakagin Capsule Tower Preservation and Restoration Project.
The international architecture community has been campaigning to preserve it. But the only ten residents living in it voted to tear the tower down and develop a new building. The advanced state of abandonment of the structure and sky-rocketing real estate prices in the Ginza district contributed to the final decision.
The building administration banned plans to transform the building into a capsule hotel for architecture lovers. The hope to become a UNESCO World Heritage building faded away as the pandemic destroyed the possibility for foreigners to see and experience this building, reconfirming its value. Still, there is some hope.
“We don’t know yet how many capsules we’ll be able to save, but we plan to repair some deteriorated parts and refurbish them to send them to museums,” said Maeda. In 2021, Akiko Ishimaru launched the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building A606 Project crowdfunding campaign to detach and relocate the restored Capsule A606. The architect and former capsule dweller pledged to donate it to a museum hoping that “architecture enthusiasts can rent it for overnight stays.”