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Picture Dictionary of Modern Architecture: Postwar Japanese Metabolism


With cell-like apartments, Kisho Kurokawa's 1972 Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo exemplifies the 1960s Metabolism Movement in Japan.
Metabolism architecture of individual cell-like apartments in Kurokawa's Nakagin Capsule Tower.

Nakagin Capsule Tower, 1972, by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa is an example of the Japanese Metabolism movement in architecture.

Photo ©Damon Garrett, damon.garrett at flickr.com, attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Japanese Metabolism Movement:

When: 1960 – 1970s
Where: The urban design philosophy and ideas of metabolism were presented at the 1960 World Design Conference in Tokyo.
Why: The origins of the movement date back to 1946, post World War II Japan, when Kenzo Tange established the Tange Research Laboratory at Tokyo University. Urban reconstruction of Japanese cities destroyed during WWII was the problem to be solved. Tange's Japanese students challenged the Western ideas of static urban planning.
Who: Fumihiko Maki, Masato Otaka, Kiyonari Kikutake, and Kisho Kurokawa. Other students and associates of Kenzo Tange, such as Arata Isozaki, are also associated with the movement.
Characteristics: organic urban design and reconstruction, recycling, organic growth and change, prefabrication, expansion and contraction based on need, megastructure infrastructure (core), attachable / detachable substructure, replaceable units (cells or pods), sustainability

About Nakagin Capsule Tower:

"Kurokawa developed the technology to install the capsule units into a concrete core with only 4 high-tension bolts, as well as making the units detachable and replaceable. The capsule is designed to accommodate the individual as either an apartment or studio space, and by connecting units can also accommodate a family. Complete with appliances and furniture, from audio system to telephone, the capsule interior is pre-assembled in a factory off-site. The interior is then hoisted by crane and fastened to the concrete core shaft. The Nakagin Capsule Tower realizes the ideas of metabolism, exchangeability, recycleablity as the prototype of sustainable architecture."—Works and Projects of Kisho Kurokawa

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