TOKYO – The capsule architecture of world-renowned architect Kisho Kurokawa (1934-2007) is set to be reborn as an accommodation facility this summer thanks to the creative hands of his 55-year-old son Mikio.
Capsule House-K, a cottage in Miyota town, Nagano Prefecture, designed by Kurokawa in 1973, converts into a lodge to accommodate guests. It is made up of a combination of cube-shaped rooms with round windows, reminiscent of the Nakagin Capsule Tower, a housing complex in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district known as a representative work of the architect.
Kurokawa was an apprentice to the late architect Kenzo Tange and designed the National Museum of Ethnology in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, as well as Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia, among other facilities. After completing work for the National Art Center of Tokyo in the Roppongi district of the capital, which opened in January 2007, Kurokawa stood as a candidate for the Tokyo governorship and election. of the House of Councilors in April and July of the same year, respectively, none of which he won. Kurokawa died in October of the same year, at the age of 73.
Capsule House-K is one of the earliest works of Kurokawa and is designed in such a way that its capsule units are replaceable once they exceed their limited lifespan like the metabolism of living cells. The architectural movement “Metabolism”, which is the basis of the structure, was led by Kurokawa in the 1960s during the period of rapid economic growth in Japan. The movement has gained worldwide attention as a new form of urban design.
In a manifesto announced in 1969, Kurokawa defines capsule architecture as “dwellings for homo movens (beings in movement)”. The capsules can be disassembled and moved easily, which allows you to freely change the layout of the house.
However, the architecture using metabolism did not spread throughout Japan. Only two structures remain today, including the Nakagin Capsule Tower completed in Tokyo in 1972, the interior and exterior of which were designed by Kurokawa. Continuous deterioration has been observed at the Nakagin Capsule Tower, which has drawn attention to the heart of the capital.
Miyota Town in Nagano Prefecture, where the chalet is located, is west of Karuizawa, a popular resort town. The building which is in the mountains consists of four capsule units and the living room and master bedroom which are centrally located. The chalet has a total area of approximately 105 square meters. The cube-shaped capsule units, which measure approximately 10 square meters each, include two bedrooms, a tea room, and a kitchen. The tea room seems to have been Kurokawa’s favorite place, and he apparently said it was a “Japanese-minded space.”
Kurokawa’s eldest son Mikio started the large-scale “capsule architecture project”, which uses the chalet, in collaboration with the research lab of Toshihiko Suzuki, 62, a professor at the School of Architecture from Kogakuin University in April of this year. Suzuki worked for the Kurokawa design office and is currently researching capsule architecture.
As Kurokawa had barely used the chalet in his lifetime, there is no significant damage to the building. Mikio decided to turn the house into a lodge because “its value can only be recognized after entering the building and slowly immersing yourself in the space as if you were at home”. He also plans to set up a library corner so that guests can learn more about Kurokawa’s achievements and the architectural movement.
Mikio has launched an online crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the purchase of new air conditioning equipment and furniture. It is expected to last until June 30 and aims to raise some 5 million yen (around $ 45,600).
According to Suzuki, to date, the capsule architecture has had an impressive presence, not only as a structure, but also for its interior. The concept of capsule hotels, which incorporated the idea of capsule architecture, was born in the city of Osaka in 1979 and has firmly established itself as an accommodation establishment. The capsule rooms have also been used as dormitories in fire stations as well as guest rooms on ferries, and a total of over 60,000 units have been produced.
Last March, Suzuki developed a corrugated cardboard sleep capsule. If used in evacuation shelters during disasters, capsule units will ensure privacy while avoiding the “three Cs” conducive to coronavirus infections of confined spaces, crowded places and places of close contact. Suzuki said categorically: “I would like people to rethink the contemporary meaning of capsules.”
Mikio commented, “In capsule architecture, the individual capsule units constitute the entire unit. Modern society is the same in that the individuals working in their respective places shape the organization. This ideology resonates with modern work and lifestyles.
The chalet is designed to be viewed as a guest house and loaned out as a whole unit. Organizers plan to set the accommodation charge for the entire chalet at around 200,000 yen (around $ 1,824) per night. They estimate that the building will be rented for a variety of purposes, including as a coworking space and to accommodate families and friends. Those who participated in the crowdfunding will receive discounts to stay at the chalet and will be invited to visit the facility.
Details can be found on the project website at https://capsule-architecture.com/
(Japanese original by Mari Sakane, Nagano Office)