And they need your help!

Recently, architecture buffs of Japan and even the world were shocked to hear that the iconic, blocky building in Shimbashi known as the Nakagin Capsule Tower has been scheduled for demolition in the spring of 2022. This unusual building was designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa as part of the 1950s “Metabolism movement” of Japanese architecture, in which the future was believed to be in high-density buildings that could be expanded and built upon as needed.

▼ Interior of a residential capsule

Nakagin Capsule Tower, which in the past served as a place for Tokyo businessmen to sleep during the week so they didn’t have to commute long hours every day, was built in 1972. Sadly, it has been suffering from disuse recently, a situation that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and its sad state of disrepair has mounting costs that, for the capsule owners, are apparently not worth the reward.

That’s why they voted to tear down the building in favor of building a newer, more modern high-rise, but those who revere the architecture and historical significance of the building, and its 1970s-era modernistic interior, have been working towards preserving it as best they can.

▼ Original 1970s interior

The Save the Nakagin Capsule Tower Project has not one, but two initiatives in motion to save the capsules. They’ve already started crowdfunding to remove one capsule, Capsule A606, a workspace capsule, from the building with the aim of restoring and preserving it. But they’ve recently decided that their efforts won’t stop at just one; rather, the Project organizers are trying to save as many of the building’s capsules as they can by moving them from the building to other lodging facilities or donating them to museums.

There is actually already a restored capsule on display at the Museum of Modern Art Saitama, which was also designed by Kisho Kurokawa, that has proved very popular among art lovers. Other museums around Japan and the world, including The Centre Pompidou in Paris, have often asked to borrow the capsule for their own displays, but no request has ever been approved.

▼ The capsule on display at the Museum of Modern Art Saitama

But if the Save the Nakagin Capsule Tower Project can restore and remove other capsules, other museums can exhibit this important part of art and architectural history, too.

Furthermore, after the mild success of the Nakagin Tower’s monthly capsule rental program, more and more people have become interested in staying in capsules, which led the Project to believe that travelers might appreciate having the option to stay in Nakagin’s capsules all around the country. The Project’s associates are currently in talks with various businesses and lodging facilities to see who is interested in hosting one of these historic capsule designs, so with any luck, we might yet see these capsules preserved all over Japan.

▼ Interior of a monthly rental capsule

Should the Project fail to achieve its goal, however, its members have been working with lots of organizations to preserve the history in other ways. Several university architecture departments are assisting in diagramming and measuring the rooms, and with the collaboration of the capsule owners and residents, the Project is working to photograph the interior of each of the capsules. All of this will hopefully be documented in a book tentatively titled, “Nagakin Capsule Tower Records”, which is expected to be released in February 2022, just before the scheduled demolition of the building.

Unfortunately, renovating and removing the capsules and printing a full-color photo book will come with a heavy price, so the Save the Nakagin Capsule Tower Project has established a crowdfunding page to collect donations to support the cause (which is separate from the crowdfunding for the Capsule A606 Project).

Depending on how much money they pledge, supporters can receive a copy of “Nakagin Capsule Tower Records”, recognition of their support in the book or within a capsule, or even a month-long stay in one of the removed and renovated capsules (after their renovation has been completed, of course).

▼ Interior of a workspace capsule

The crowdfunding began on July 2 but has already amassed nearly 300 percent of their one million yen (US$9,101) goal. While three million yen does not seem like nearly enough money to restore and remove all 140 of the capsule rooms from a decades-old building, with more than a month left on the crowdfunding project, it seems likely the Save the Nakagin Capsule Tower Project will be able to raise enough money to preserve at least some of the capsules. If you’re an architecture or art history buff, definitely consider donating!

Source, images: PR Times
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