The Nakagin Capsule Tower building was planned and constructed by a popular architect
from Japan known as Kisho Kurokawa in the year 1972. Located in Tokyo, this plan takes into
account various ideologies of recyclability, exchangeability, and metabolism as the model for
sustainable architecture. The building comprises of 144 capsules with two towers consisting of
thirteen and eleven stories respectively. Every capsule, in the shape and size of a shipment
container, contains a residential division which is flexibly sheared in the towers displaying the
significant metabolism ideology of recyclability and adaptability.
When Tokyo's residential area began to shift from the town towards the suburbs, this
tower was designed to be a tactical strategy to reinstate housing units in the city's central parts.
The design anticipated growth and change and by the capsules removal or replacement, the
architecture appearance changed over time with the participation potential from the residents
influencing its form. The tower symbolized personal existence of human beings in the city
landscape with the concept expressing the metabolism and transience aesthetic. This study of
The Nakagin Capsule Tower thus provides an opportunity to examine the social influences on
the metabolism movement ideologies.
The Metabolism Movement
The name metabolism shows the city’s ideology of the designers and architects
particularly as an organic process in a biotechnical notion. According to the group of designers
and architects, metabolism showcased a platform where every member proposed future concrete
designs through illustrations. 1 The metabolism movement regarded the society of human beings
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as a critical procedure with constant development. The reason for the metabolism biological
word is due to the belief that technology and design denote human society. Metabolism was not
going to be accepted as a normal historical procedure and therefore there was a need to
encourage the society's metabolic development through proposals from architectures.
In the theoretical projects of the urban development, the architects often viewed the sky
and the sea as the future habitats of human beings and anticipated the growth, transformation,
and death of the city just in the same way as an organism. For the accommodation of growth and
modern city regeneration, the architects proposed an establishment of an urban design system
distinguishing factors of different durations and scales such as the permanent factors, for
example, the urban infrastructure against the transient factor such as individual houses. In
response to the various city metabolic cycles, the metabolism designs were regularly composed
of a megastructure combination acting as the stable base and several individual units connected
to the megastructure and deemed to further frequent replacement. 2
The Nakagin Capsule Tower featured various standardized houses sheared on few large
cylindrical towers. The towers acting as the key city structure would develop with the population
increase while the personal living units would carry out self-renewal periodically. Such cell and
megastructure combination, as a vivid illustration of the designers' city ideology as a process,
1 Lin, Zhongjie. "Metabolist utopias and their global influence: three paradigms of urbanism."
Journal of Urban History 42, no. 3 (2016): 604-622.
2 Sedighi, Mohamad. "Megastructure Reloaded: A New Technocratic Approach to Housing
Development in Ekbatan, Tehran." ARENA Journal of Architectural Research 3, no. 1 (2018).
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became the architecture trademark. The Tokyo metabolism movement plan also established in
the year 1960, illustrated a sophisticated metabolism synthesis ideologies on a magnificent scale.
With a linear interlocking loops series which covered the city through the Tokyo natural harbor,
the design acted as an alternate polemical to the Tokyo's official plans and structured itself to
basically transform the megacity urban structure for the impending postindustrial age arrival.
Through their structures, the designers did not only aspire to re-establish the rapidly
growing cities, but also seek a different world social order. The design of the Nakagin building
consisted of a number of political impacts, largely according to the collective society modern
vision. Defying from the postwar period urban reconstruction status quo, the architects shared a
common interest in the urban three-dimension structure as the transformation and growth
framework together with the ambition to revolutionize the order of which the city was
constructed and operated. However, as a result of the utopian nature of the designers, a small
number of megastructural projects had been realized since the 1970s. Under the environmental
movements rise and energy crisis attacks mega structure did not achieve its intended potential
among the clients, planners, and architects. Nearly, all the grand urban strategies remained as
written plans and the architects just succeeded to incorporate the metabolic city concepts
somehow symbolically in a small number of building projects one of them being the Nakagin
Design and Construction
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The building was designed and constructed according to the idea of Kisho Kurokawa
that, the capsules were homo movers housing denoting the mobility of people. 3 This design
answered back the urban nomads’ emergence and the increased mobility symbolizing a post-
industrial town. The Nakagin tower location at the busy Giza central district suited it for its
purpose. This movability and impermanence ideology coming from the city’s metabolism
concepts determined each stage of the Nakagin building construction and design. On the basis of
the various metabolic cycles, the architect logically partitioned the structure into three simple
components which comprised of the moveable feature (144 capsules), service equipment and the
The three components of the Nakagin Capsule Tower were designed on the basis of
various life spans such that the key shafts were intended to last for a minimum of sixty years,
with the capsules meant to be replaced within twenty to thirty years. The capsule life span was
more of a social approach rather than a mechanical denotation such that it was the social
relations and human needs changes that would necessitate the periodic replacement. The towers,
having service spaces and circulations, were attached among one another through outdoor
bridges with three floors while serving as vertical manmade land which would harbor the
capsules installation. There was a further attachment of the capsules with the utility pipelines
from the exterior parts of the building. The towers rose to various heights while the capsules
were organized in a random pattern, denoting an on-going development such that there could be
the shaft growth, and further capsules would be stacked upwards. Kisho Kurokawa considered
3 Garzanti, Alessandro. "The renaissance of Tokyo-ness. Prefabricated wooden system to be
installed in the suburbs of Tokyo." (2017).
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this incomplete approach as the time aesthetic regarding the city metabolism central notion
When the Nakagin building was completed, it was a significant architectural event. The
capsule tower optimistically reflected the prospective future capsule architecture development.
Being the first capsule structure to be actualized in the entire world, the building brought up
numerous revolutionary ideologies into practice. It assisted in the creation of a new type of
construction, a capsule hotel, having minimum supplies and space to offer accommodation
within the city. Moreover, the Nakagin building designs went forth to the industrial products
market, for example, the prefabricated bathroom. The future envisions of the entire building
indicated that it would make it to a new urban architecture prototype and inspire mass
prefabricated housing production.
The Nakagin building is a continuous history, and its future's battle is not settled yet.
However, the debate surrounding its planned demolition requires a history revisit and design
ideologies of the building together with the metabolism movement as a whole. It offers a
distinctive outlook to examine few vital urbanisms and contemporary architecture issues from
history reevaluation and current architectural heritage preservation to the modern Japanese urban
culture and its architectural practice impact in the present times. The designers’ ambitious urban
structures on their suggestion contained limited physical planning influence. They were basically
polemical schemes and utopian speculations versus the reconstruction official master plans.
These utopian structures nevertheless, symbolized urban ideals powerful body which went on
stimulating modern city bold visions. Correspondingly, the Nakagin Capsule Tower building was
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naturally idealistic representing a bid to create a new architecture prototype which would
respond to the immediate modern social transformation and change and the modern metropolis
continuous growth. The solution getting out from the architectural encounter was difficult, but
the regeneration and transformation notion attaches it to modern architectural culture, together
with a potential architecture future.
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Garzanti, Alessandro. "The renaissance of Tokyo-ness. Prefabricated wooden system to be
installed in the suburbs of Tokyo." (2017).
Lin, Zhongjie. "Metabolist utopias and their global influence: three paradigms of urbanism."
Journal of Urban History 42, no. 3 (2016): 604-622.
Sedighi, Mohamad. "Megastructure Reloaded: A New Technocratic Approach to Housing
Development in Ekbatan, Tehran." ARENA Journal of Architectural