AD Classics: Nakagin Capsule Tower / Kisho Kurokawa


Architect was very innovative in his creation of the in 1972, which was the first capsule architecture design. The module was created with the intention of housing traveling businessmen that worked in central Tokyo during the week. It is a prototype for architecture of sustainability and recycleability, as each module can be plugged in to the central core and replaced or exchanged when necessary.

More on the Nakagin Capsule Tower after the break.


Built in the Ginza area of Tokyo, a total of 140 capsules are stacked and rotated at varying angles around a central core, standing 14-stories high. The technology developed by Kurokawa allowed each unit to be installed to the concrete core with only 4 high-tension bolts, which keeps the units replaceable. Each capsule measures 4 x 2.5 meters, permitting enough room for one person to live comfortably. The interior space of each module can be manipulated by connecting the capsule to other capsules.


All pieces of the pods were manufactured in a factory in Shiga Prefecture then transported to the site by truck. The pre-assembled interior features a circular window, built-in bed and bathroom, and is furnished with a TV, radio and alarm clock. Hoisted by a crane, the capsules were inserted in the shipping containers by use of a crane, and then fastened to the concrete core shaft.


This unique take on apartments and high-rises in Tokyo is a prime example of the Metabolism architecture movement of Kisho, known for it’s focus on adaptable, growing and interchangeable building designs. These ideas first surfaced in 1960 at the “World Design Conference.” Hidaka once stated that the Metabolist ideas of the 1960s “were very new, the saw cities as ‘moving’ and dynamic, that concept is real. Metabolism wanted to collaborate with engineers, they invited scientists, designers, and industrial designers. THey wanted transcultural collaborations. It’s still relevant because of the ‘dynamic city’ and trans-cultural aspects.”


Another theme of the temporality of the Nakagin Capsule Tower is grounded in what Kurokawa observed throughout Japanese history; that Japanese cities built from natural materials had temporary and unpredictable lifespans. This hasn’t withstood the test of time, and the limits can be seen in the Nakagin Tower. “The tower had a design period of only four months- shorter than usual, and it was rushed. The designing went on even after construction had already started.”


Residents of the tiny pods are now plotting its demolition; although the capsules were built to be replacable, the building has not been maintained in over 33 years which has led to drainage and damaged water pipes. Architects from around the world are trying to work together to preserve the towers, considering all ideas and options.


Architect: Kisho Kurokawa
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Project Year: 1972
Photographs: Arcspace
References: Kisho Kurokawa

Cite: Sveiven, Megan. "AD Classics: Nakagin Capsule Tower / Kisho Kurokawa" 09 Feb 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 16 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    the owner cant afford maintenance cost
    and sell them for Developer to do something in this valuable site

    and Architect want to save this things by buy it back from the developer but the price is too high

    i dont want what’s going on after his death

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I remember this building being used as one of the buildings in a computer game called- simcity (2000 I guess). Weird, but cool :).

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    It’s iconic. A great pity they’re tearing it down. Why not turn it into a museum and generate revenue?
    That way, it’ll be economically viable, as well as remain as a reminder of certain wild days!

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    The building is made of extremely toxic materials.

    There used to be small business inside, like for example someone running a shoe shop in their little capsule. However, the department of health has shut down any access to the building, except for the poor residents.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    A rare example of the Metabolist movement in Japan. It was an emblem of the post-war boom. It’s symbolic of a proud period in modern Japanese history, and it’s sad it has been allowed to go into disrepair.

    Perhaps it will see a revival like Keeling House by Denys Lasdun in London!

    Is there anyone out there who thinks that it shouldn’t be saved – not on the grounds of health and safety?

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I reckon we could use it as a hotel, I don’t mind to pay a little more to enjoy those good old days.

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