Nakagin Capsule Tower: Japanese Metabolist Landmark on the Edge of Destruction
The Nakagin Capsule Tower is not faring so well. Constructed in central Tokyo by famed “metabolist” architect Kisho Kurokawa 45 years ago, its 140 self-contained individual modules, each of them 9 square meters in dimension (and fitted out with a single, circular window) are beginning to look decidedly the worse for wear. There are leaks everywhere, and indeed only thirty of the original apartments are still inhabited. The residents themselves have voted to demolish the building (with compensation of course). Will anyone step forward to save it?
Rima Yamazaki’s film, produced by independent arts filmmaker Michael Blackwood, situates itself inside a controversy that has become increasingly common in modernist architecture: many of the experimental “landmark” buildings of the post-war epoch were simply not very well built in the first place. In a way, they were designed not to be permanent. Yet now that they are deteriorating, their architects have been seized with second thoughts.
This is very much the case here. The profession, especially the avant-garde wing of it, adore this building. In a way it really is a landmark. So aesthetics are locked in conflict with utility. There is a lot at stake, especially since the land which the tower was built upon, abutting the fashionable Ginza district, is currently so valuable.
Yamazaki’s film, despite its alarming title, is not polarising. It introduces us to the characters involved, and invites us to make up our own minds.
Born in Tokyo, Rima Yamazaki lives and works as a documentary filmmaker in New York. Her focus is on the contemporary arts. Yamazaki is interested in revealing new aspects of art through documenting art-making processes. She works as a one-person film crew; all her films are directed, photographed and edited by herself. Her films have been shown at various film festivals and venues internationally.