Beside an elevated highway in Tokyo's Ginza district is what looks like a huge pile of front-loading washing machines. The 13-story structure is Nakagin Capsule Tower, a residential building consisting of 144 cubic pods.
Built in 1972, the tower is a rare example of the Metabolism movement in Japanese architecture, which prized module-based designs in which individual units could be replaced.
Each of the 144 Nakagin capsules is its own 8-by-7-by-12-foot apartment. Designed for single salarymen, the units are equipped with a stove, refrigerator, TV, reel-to-reel tape deck, and telephone. The bathroom, which resembles an airplane lavatory, is three steps from the bed. A table folds down from the wall for dining and work.
Though tiny apartments are standard in Tokyo, the Nakagin capsules did not herald the dawn of pod-based urban living. Its cubes, intended for a 25-year life span, have never been replaced due to prohibitive costs. The building suffers from water leaks, has asbestos in its original air-conditioning system, and is mostly unoccupied. The threat of demolition is tempered only by outraged members of the architecture community who want to see the rare Metabolist structure preserved.
If you'd like to experience a Nakagin capsule before it's lost forever, one of the units is currently being rented on Airbnb for $30 per night.
Sleep cramped in concrete:
View 株式会社電通 in a larger map