Last week I stumbled across photos of the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo, designed by Kisho Kurokawa. While many might find the aesthetic unappealing, I was immediately drawn to the interiors of each capsule. They remind me of Bruce Willis’ apartment in “The Fifth Element,” small and utilitarian. Such design appeals to my instinct to crawl into a warm, little burrow every once in awhile with a good book. I decided to look further into Kurokawa’s work and discovered he was quite a visionary when it came to architecture and environmental design.
Kurokawa was one of the founders of a philosophical approach to architecture in the 1960s called Metabolism. Taking the metaphor from the chemical reactions in our bodies that process matter and energy, these architects argued that buildings should be as adjustable as living organisms. The idea was for these structures to evolve over time with their surroundings. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case with the Nakagin Capsule Tower, as it has been scheduled for demolition on and off again for the last seven years.
Other designs from Kurokawa include:
Later in life, Kurokawa expanded upon Metabolism with another architectural movement called Symbiosis. Still comparing buildings to living organisms, this aesthetic also attempted to integrate construction within its surrounding habitat. For example, the airport in Kuala Lumpur achieved this by blending its terminals in with the surrounding rain forest.
Before he passed away from heart failure in 2007, Kurokawa even tried his hand in politics, running for both governor of Tokyo and the upper house of Japan’s parliament. Clearly this was a man who was persistent, productive and interested in how his work influenced the surrounding world. Here’s hoping more architects take inspiration from him to develop the next generation of architecture designed in harmony with its ecosystem.
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