Living in a long forgotten future
Kisho Kurokawa’s Nagakin Capsule Tower has been under threat of demolition for a decade now. The icon of the metabolist movement was also an important model for tiny living, with so much crammed into such a small space. It was an innovative example of plug-in architecture, where each apartment module could be removed and upgraded. In 2010 Nicolai Ouroussoff wondered how such an icon could be treated so shabbily:
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…for many of us who believe that the way we treat our cultural patrimony is a fair measure of how enlightened we are as a society, the building's demolition would be a bitter loss. The Capsule Tower is not only gorgeous architecture; like all great buildings, it is the crystallization of a far-reaching cultural ideal. Its existence also stands as a powerful reminder of paths not taken, of the possibility of worlds shaped by different sets of values.
The tower is still standing, barely, and documentary film-makers Kevin Tadge and Laura Lamp recently tried to stay there, only to find that they did not have the room with working plumbing. The narrator asks picks up on Ouroussoff:
Maybe nowhere else is the gap between the utopian 1960s and 70s dream of the future and the reality of life in the 21st century as acutely felt as right here.
The narrator also wonders how this can happen.
Why has this tower been left to decay, in a country that renews and preserves so much of its history? Yet no matter how derelict it feels, the ideas made manifest here are still inspiring.
Indeed they are; this is a great loss. Too bad the units can't be unplugged and shipped somewhere where people want them.