Tour of Japan's Nagakin Capsule Tower is blast from the prefab past (Video)

Fair Companies
Video screen capture Fair Companies

A few years ago, we wrote about how Tokyo's iconic Nagakin Capsule Towers might be facing demolition. It would have been a loss of the world's first realization of capsule architecture and one of the few built examples of the Metabolist movement, which envisioned implementing a dynamic model of biological growth to urban design.

Nicolás BoullosaNicolás Boullosa/CC BY 2.0

Fast forward to the current moment: the towers were saved from destruction and are still standing, but many of their 140 capsules are still in a neglected state of disrepair. Nevertheless, some are still being used, and Kirsten Dirksen of Fair Companies and her family arranged to stay in one capsule through AirBnb. Here's the video tour of their capsule, as shown by host Masato Abe, who rents his unit out for extra income.

Fair CompaniesFair Companies/Video screen capture
Fair CompaniesFair Companies/Video screen capture

Dirksen recounts some of the history behind the Nagakin Towers, which is located in the district of Ginza:

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.

Fair CompaniesFair Companies/Video screen capture
Fair CompaniesFair Companies/Video screen capture

Each capsule is meant to be a miniature haven in the city, complete with all the basic necessities. As Abe explains in the video, these tiny residences were meant for Japanese salarymen who might have already a house in the suburbs, allowing them to stay in the city during the work week -- which would explain the bare minimum of storage spaces provided.

Fair CompaniesFair Companies/Video screen capture

Though the towers' modular design was meant to allow each capsule to be independently attached and easily replaced, in reality, substituting the rundown capsules was never done, due to high costs.

The towers, despite their relatively low rental price, are seen as a relic in the neighbourhood, with many locals hoping to see it torn down and replaced with something more modern. While the Nagakin Capsule Tower embodies utopian ideals that may have failed to fully materialize, it nevertheless tapped into vital ideas that may still yet take another form in today's evolving cities. If you are in the area, you can rent out a Nagakin capsule on AirBnb, or you can read more over at Fair Companies.

Tags: Architecture | Japan | Less Is More | Living With Less | Small Spaces | video

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