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Nakagin: 140 plug and play capsules float in metabolist tower

Resembling clusters of space pods stacked 13 stories tall, the Nakagin Capsule Tower is the world’s first example of capsule architecture. When erected in 1972, these tiny prefab apartments were stacked like LEGOs (by crane) around a concrete core. Attached by only 4 high-tension bolts, the capsules were designed to be plugged in and replaced when necessary.

Each pod was a micro apartment measuring 4 by 2.5 meters, intended for Japanese businessmen who wanted to avoid a long commute home. Everything came built-in: a bed, a sink, a refrigerator, bathroom, folding desk and even a TV, radio and alarm clock.

Built in 1972 in Tokyo’s Ginza District, the building is one of the only remaining examples of Metabolist architecture: a movement begun in the 1960s that treated cities as dynamic, evolving organisms. Designed by Kisho Kurokawa for sustainability and recycleability, the Nakagin Tower has not been maintained and now nearly 50 years after it’s construction, many of the capsules are uninhabitable.

In 2007, when the building’s residents voted to demolish the building. Kurokawa proposed “unplugging” the worn-out units and replacing them with newer capsules (an idea supported by the Japan Institute of Architects). Kurokawa died in late 2007. Given the high rents in the Ginza neighborhood, most of the residents continue to push to replace the entire building, but an online group has organized to save the building and its fate remains unclear.

Today, a few residents like Masato Abe rent their unit outs on AirBnB. We (the faircompanies family of five) rented it for a night. In this video, Abe shows us his neighbor’s unit which is in nearly original condition and we filmed our night with the five of us sleeping in a self-contained capsule built for one.