Swappable Capsule Homes Facilitate Sustainable City Architecture [Pics]

Swappable Capsule Homes Facilitate Sustainable City Architecture [Pics]

The Nakagin Capsule Tower houses 140 micro apartments that are attached to a central core and designed to be replaceable.

Leah Gonzalez
  • 26 september 2013

Micro apartments or micro housing has been a popular concept in the last few years, what with developers, designers, architects and practically everyone constantly looking for new solutions to housing because of rising populations and decreasing urban space.

The concept certainly isn’t new and, in Japan, there’s one building of micro apartments that people have been living in since the 1970’s.

Dubbed as the world’s first capsule architecture for actual use, the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Ginza, Tokyo was built in 1972 by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. Kurokawa was then part of a movement called Metabolism, which focused on adaptable and interchangeable designs. The tower was proposed as a solution to urban housing.

The building consists of 140 modular apartments or capsules that are just over 100 square feet in size each. The tower was intended for traveling businessmen who worked in Tokyo during the week.


The capsules are attached to a central core and are designed to be detachable and replaceable. The initial plan was to replace the capsules every few years to accommodate the growth of the city. Each capsule has a built-in bed, bathroom and circular window, and is furnished with a TV and a radio.

Today the capsules are used as offices or homes by a diverse group of people, with most of the residents pushing for its demolition since the building hasn’t been maintained well through the years. Institutions like DoCoMoMo and the Japan Society of Architects have called for its preservation since it remains one of the leading examples of urban sustainable architecture.

Kisho Kurokawa

Images by Noritaka Minami via Co.Exist

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