For all its traditional temples and shrines, apartment buildings in Japan are usually rather plain and not built to last decades. The Nakagin Capsule Tower is different – it’s one of the few remaining examples of Japanese Metabolism, an architectural movement that depicted towers with plug-in capsules. The movement remained largely theoretical and even though the Nakagin Capsule Tower was built, it never reached its full potential.
Architect Kisho Kurokawa’s building consists of two towers with 140 fabricated capsules. Each capsule was fitted with utilities before it was shipped to the tower and could be removed and replaced without affecting the other towers. This was akin to upgrading a software or a piece of hardware: Just swap it out for an updated unit and take advantage of better materials or utilities. Capsules were supposed to be mass produced, lowering the price of a new one. Unfortunately, it never happened.