Kurokawa extended the idea of living-space-as-capsule to a multi-unit dwelling. His Nakagin Capsule Tower (1972) has become a tourist destination in Tokyo. The architect created a 14-story-high central core for the building, then plugged in 140 individual capsules which had been transported in shipping containers. Each has one large, circular window and serves as a minimalist home or alternative space—for storage or a meeting place, for example. The rooms were so small that the architect initially targeted bachelors as potential buyers. The result looks like a series of bricks poking out from a brown tower, each overlooking the city with its own cyclops lens. “I found it meaningless to attempt to revive an already destroyed city by means of a monument, I felt that it was important to let the destroyed be and to create a new Japan,” Kurokawa once wrote. While his designs offered novelty, they also referenced traditional Japanese culture—each tower unit has the same dimensions as a traditional tea ceremony room.
Scholars and architects are still debating Metabolism’s legacy. The website Failed Architecture
has noted that Nakagin Capsule Tower’s materials “have not withstood the test of time,” and the “idea of mutation never took root.” In 1967, the movement inspired Israeli-Canadian architect ’s
design for connected capsule homes, Habitat 67 in Montreal, but instead of becoming a socialist utopia, the project became so expensive that rent was unaffordable. The following decade, Metabolist architects abandoned their own manifesto to make museums, government offices, stadiums, and other designs that weren’t based on the body or regeneration. Nevertheless, writes
Schalk, “Revisiting the Metabolist visions of a resilient world reveals several contemporary, urgent issues.” Just like the Metabolists, we now face numerous challenges to sustainable architecture, including land scarcity and development driven by the market. If Metabolism didn’t necessarily succeed, according to Schalk, we can study the movement to understand what kinds of sustainable projects might work in the future.