ARCHITECTURE | Capsule Hotels :: Tiny, Tiny Houses of the Future
So there we were, Xmas ’08. Back in Tōkyō.
Nobody does Christmas lights like the Japanese. Go figure.
I wanted to check out the new architecture in Shinbashi (“New Bridge”). Although we’d lived in the city for a year, we’d never ventured over there, right on the edge of the one Tōkyō neighbourhood everyone knows — Ginza (“Silver Mint”).
There’s nothing like modern Japanese crafts(person)ship. The materials used and the precision with which they are executed are sans pareil.
We walked through Shinbashi’s underground shopping concourses, full of larger-than-life sized billboards. Okinawa Dreaming, Hokkaidō Dreaming.
When we emerged from this compound of corporate culture, we were forced up on to one of those ubiquitous “cross-overs” that separate the Japanese pedestrian from the Japanese driver.
All very Corbusian in planning concept, but usually ugly and looking more like an afterthought or “add-on” than the streamlined overhead pedways the maestro had envisioned.
La Ville Radieuse. Le Corbusier, Paris, Editions Vincent, Fréal & Cie, 2nd ed., 1964, p. 135 © FLC/Adagp, Paris, 2007
We were leaving the demarcation point between Shinbashi to the south and Ginza to the north.
And there, in front of us was …
A Don Quixote! Right there on the edge of the richest shopping district in Japan!
For those new to “Donki,” please see the wikiality summary of this chain of discount stores. Can you spell “firetrap”? Be sure to read about the mad arsonist attacks. And check out Donki Kingdom on flickr, a support group for Donki’s otakyu.
I thought: Wow, Japan has been in a recession for a long time, now. A Donki in Ginza …
And then, my eyes looked north, up Ginza-dori.
And there it was: the Capsule Hotel. The prototype of the future. Looking sad, worn-out, tired, and neglected. If you’re ever in Ginza, it’s marked by the red dot on the map above. Say “hello” for me.
Nakagin Capsule Tower
The Nakagin Capsule Tower was the first capsule architecture design, the capsule as a room inserted into a mega-structure, built for actual use.
The Capsule Tower realizes the ideas of metabolism, exchangeability, recycleablity as the prototype of sustainable architecture.
From the architect’s files @ kisho.co.jp
Kurokawa’s original capsule hotel interior wasn’t as small as what they would become (see below).
Kisho Kurokawa (1934-2007) was a leading figure in the Metabolist Movement – one of the “isms” that sprang forth from Japan in “the ultradmodern decade” — the ’60s. He also designed the sinuous National Art Center (国立新美術館 Kokuritsu Shinbijutsukan) in Tokyo and my favourite airport, Kuala Lumpur International (KUL):
In “space-is-at-a-premium” Japan, Capsule Hotels (the concept just shouts: “Capitalize Me!”) fulfill a certain role.
In urban Japan the trains stop running around midnight. You’re drunk. You’re tired. You’re broke. You didn’t heed the admonishments in the metro that took you where you now find yourself.
For about $30 a stay, these coffin-like cubicles are just the ticket. Only in Japan.
I took my photos of that sad looking building. Another relic of the future that was not-to-be.
And then we continued our way back through the Xmas lights of Tokyo.
And it was somehow reassuring to see that the Japanese mangle French, too. Joyous Christmas!
Post Scriptum …
In 1997, DOCOMOMO International (Documentation and Conservation of Modern Architectural Movement) has selected Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower, Tokyo (1970) to be included in their short list for World Heritage of Modern Buildings and Sites.
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- 2009/10/21 / 18:40
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