Right to reconstruct iconic Tokyo capsule building to go on auction block

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Nakagin Capsule Tower in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, in December 2020

The architectural office of the world-renowned late architect Kisho Kurokawa will sell the rights to reconstruct one of his signature buildings, the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward that is currently undergoing demolition.

It is quite unusual for the holder of the copyrights to a famous building to officially sanction reconstruction of the structure.

The Nakagin Capsule Tower, designed a half-century ago by Kurokawa (1934-2007) and known for its distinctive cubic sections, is being demolished after having fallen into a dilapidated state.

The architectural office, Kisho Kurokawa Architect & Associates, will jointly sell the reconstruction rights in collaboration with Laetoli, a real estate crowd-funding firm based in Minato Ward, Tokyo. The rights enable the holder to construct the new building based on three-dimensional data created from the building’s blueprints, which are possessed by the Kurokawa A&A.

The sale is being conducted by auction, which started on July 22, with bids accepted until Aug. 31. The buyer must be an individual or single company.

The Nakagin Capsule Tower was completed in 1972 and stood out for its unique appearance of 140 residence capsules stacked in columns on top of each other like blocks.

The building embodied the Metabolism architectural movement, which started in Japan and theorized replication and mass production in architecture.

The reconstruction rights place no restrictions on the location, purpose or number of columns for the new building. The successful bidder can also change the number of the capsules and external appearance, and convert them into a small-scale communal building or temporary housing in time of a disaster. Selling them is also permissible.

“It is putting Metabolism into practice and is significant in the sense that it keeps the concept alive,” the office said of the rights sale.

Yoshiyuki Yamana, a professor of the Tokyo University of Science specializing in architectural history and design, said, “This is an interesting attempt as a new creative activity.”