Nakagin Capsule Tower – a fast farewell

Nakagin Capsule Tower is almost gone. I was shocked to see its condition. One of Tokyo’s most famous buildings is now a skeleton of its former self. In a few more weeks, a patch of dirt will be ready for redevelopment. It’s a sad ending for a once-great building. Shocking might be the better word.

The building would have to be one of Tokyo’s most iconic structures. Many friends saw it on TV. It was a part of American news channels broadcasts from Tokyo in the aftermath of the 2011 disaster. Everyone saw its image.

Many friends asked me its name. One guy said it like the Rubik’s Cube Building.  Another called it the Lego Capsule Tower. I heard all sorts of weird stuff. But at that time, I didn’t realize how important it was. Yes, I know I should have paid more attention at the time.

Kisho Kurokawa built it in 1970. How could he have known it would become one of the city’s most iconic structures? It was a shining example of Japanese metabolism.

And now, it has been reduced to almost nothing. In searing heat, workers are pulling it apart. When I visited, Tokyo was under the effects of a tremendous heatwave. In fact, it was the worst since 1875. I’m surprised the demolition crew could work at all.

Not that I saw many of them. They seemed to be inside Nakagin. That was where all the sound was. But, every so often, a crane would carry a huge bucket-load of material to a waiting truck.

The speed of the demolition is pretty fast. Due to its modular design, much of it can be literally pulled straight out. That shouldn’t have surprised anyone. But I was.

I was surprised. In August 2021, I visited the building.  Just over ten months later, it was mostly gone. A part of Tokyo’s history is about to disappear. It’s going out with a whimper. And there was worse to come.

Few people in the area seemed interested. Only one or two stopped to take a quick picture. Everyone else walked by.  Kurokawa’s work is now dust. It’s a shame. Nakagin Capsule Tower deserved more.

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