Buy The Right To Build A Nakagin Tower Anywhere

We’re guessing that among Hackaday’s readership are plenty of futurists, and while the past might be the wrong direction in which to look when considering futurism, we wouldn’t blame any of them for hankering for the days when futurism was mainstream.

Perhaps one of the most globally iconic buildings of that era could have been found in Tokyo, in the form of the Nakagin Capsule Tower, Kisho Kurokawa’s 1972 Metabolist apartment block. This pioneering structure, in which individual apartments were conceived as plug-in units that could be moved or changed at will, never achieved its potential and was dismantled, looking more post-apocalyptic than futuristic in early 2022, but it could live on in both digital form and reconstructed elsewhere as the rights to its design are being auctioned.

Unfortunately there appears to be some NFT mumbo-jumbo associated with the sale, but what’s up for auction is a complete CAD model along with the rights to build either real or virtual copies of the building. It’s unlikely that any Hackaday readers will pony up for their own Metabolist skyscraper, but the interest lies not only in the love of a future that never quite happened, but in the engineering behind the structure. Where this is being written as in many other places there is simultaneously a chronic housing shortage and a housing system wedded to the outdated building techniques of a previous century, so the thought of updated equivalents of the Nakagin Tower offering the chance of modular interchangeable housing in an era perhaps more suited to it than the 1970s is an intriguing one. Now that we’re living in the future, perhaps it’s time to give futurism another chance.

Regular readers will have spotted this isn’t the first time we’ve brought you a taste of futuristic living.

Header: Svetlov Artem, CC0.

41 thoughts on “Buy The Right To Build A Nakagin Tower Anywhere

  1. While the design is iconic and I actually really dig the style of the original micro-apartments, I don’t think you’d want to build a replica because it was a very flawed design. I don’t think having the modules be removable was a very useful feature to begin with, but it didn’t even work: you had to remove a large number of modules to do any swapping, and they were eventually fixed in place permanently because of safety/stability issues. The apartments themselves apparently had significant ventilation issues.

    So, I think there’s room for modular micro-apartment towers that take some design inspiration from Nagakin Tower, but I’d be very skeptical of the utility of swappable modules and I definitely wouldn’t recommend straight up copying this design. Also, “taking inspiration” is free and doesn’t require interaction with NFTs.

    1. Having just completed my third move in 5 years, the idea of a swappable apartment sounds incredibly useful. Just pad the glassware and tie down the furniture before the magical man with the crane comes to take your old home to its new home. No moving truck Tetris. Minimal boxing/unboxing. No “surprises” from the previous occupant. I think they were onto something with this idea!

      (I can definitely see how this could be an engineering nightmare though.)

        1. The benefit here is that they are stackable and can be densely stored in high-population areas while also allowing traditional apartment dwellers to have both an amount of ownership rights, and the ability to ‘vote with their feet’.

          Too many mobile home owners remove the wheels making them less ‘mobile’ (caused because some home loans require removal of wheels on aforementioned units). If this were more like a livable POD unit that could be easily transported, it could be a big win in helping moderate housing costs in cities.

          1. In many local jurisdictions, removal of the wheels is required by law. As is the tongue of the trailer. Even underpinning is sometimes required by law. Mobile homes were intended to be mobile between their location of construction, sale, and final destination (pun intended). They were never intended to be like a recreational vehicle (“camping car” for some Asian cultures or “caravan” for some European cultures). Mobile homes are so undesirable from a community planning perspective that some local jurisdictions will not issue a permit to have one set up on your property. Some others will approve a new mobile home, but not one over a certain age. This guts the already low value of a used mobile home in those areas making them practically worthless; affordable housing be damned.

          2. Mobile homes are that, mobile capable, but not necessarily. Manufactured houses arrive on wheels and have hitches which are later removed and the structure is attached to something

          3. you know why municipalities require people to put their trailer on blocks? People coming home to everything they owned stolen. Robbers just hitched up and drove it all away.

      1. You can buy a 40′ high-cube shipping container and customize that into a home. As long as you stay within the container’s weight limit, you’ll be able to transport it like any other container.
        I think I’d just bolt it down to a foundation and keep it as a rental property if I needed to move, though.

        1. A shipping container s just a box. If you cut holes into it, you have to put in reinforcement (otherwise it will fold in half when you attempt to pick it up), which will put a dent into the weight budget. It has no insulation and likes to rust…
          Just forget the mobility, pre-fabbed homes are cheaper and better.

          1. Most holes have welded angle by need. And much of the rigidity will not be lost as they are built to stack. Also they have insulated shipping containers used for transporting food stuffs. Insulating a rectangular prism such as a container is very cheap and easy. MUCH easier than insulating a stick built home. I have done both, as well as insulated rounded school buses from top to bottom. I would rather build in a shipping container any day of the week vs a block or wood home. Not to mention the decades of dealing with debt, insurance, and other scams forced on us by lousy parts of building codes and zoning laws.

        2. The marine paint used on shipping containers contains high levels of lead, chromates, and other toxic metals.
          Many containers are fumigated to avoid the spreading of pests around the globe and to protect the cargo. This means that toxic chemicals are inserted into the container, and while the container should then be ventilated, sometimes these chemicals still remain. The chemicals used for fumigation are often very toxic and can pose a serious threat to human health, even at very low concentrations. About 20% of shipping containers have concentrations of gases that exceed occupational hygiene limit values.
          Typically the floors in shipping containers are made from tropical hardwoods which have been treated with crude pesticides. These harsh chemicals are dangerous to humans and so it is not recommended to use the existing plywood flooring.

          So once you strip the paint from the inside, and outside, and replace the flooring, youve got a shitty metal box that you still need to insulate and build out. SCHWEEEET!

          I think Ill stick with Interlocking cement stabilized compressed earth blocks. Enjoy the sardine can!

      2. Indeed, very useful for some of the more mobile workforce etc and swap able modules doesn’t sound all the problematic to me in practice – you just have to engineer the central hub correctly to allow for removal of one in the middle floors from the beginning, or perhaps even just have a separation and lifting vehicle.

        Lots of ways it can be done as a concept – perhaps each movable pod being lightweight timber construction that slides into the steel frame, rather rack mount server/Audio system style with a crane on the central hub for raising/lowering and servicing the pods outer walls – heck maybe its actually also just the personnel lift. To the less mobile more standalone pod concepts with lots of heavy weight construction. Where each pod ties into the one above and below but when disconnection is needed you can jack up the top stack up from the lower stack with powerful hydraulics to free the middle unit, bridge over it for the services and wheel it on out over the road to then lower it onto the truck – presumably the separation vehicle would need a hefty counter weight to keep the load on the stack of pods even enough, and being such heavy engineering would likely have a bit of a queue for its services if such pods really took off.

  2. Quite my favourite building. It came from an era that promised so much, and whilst a wreck for many years prior to it’s demise there is a lot of nostalgia around it and the Japanese Metabolism architectural movement.
    I have a dozen or so books and videos on the building from an architectural, social and artistic perspective and have been fortunate enough to visit it on a couple of occasions. It’s a shame to see it go, but given the lifespan of most buildings in Tokyo we were lucky to have it for so long.
    As for the rights to digitally build it – it lends itself well to even unskilled amateurs to recreate.
    My own work in progress included :-)

    Looking on the usual places for photos and art related to this tower show that whilst gone, with our without this NFT venture (which I have no objection to at all) it will persist.

  3. A dystopian solution for overpopulated cities.

    Modular houses build in factories can get costs down massively without tiny apartments. Most countries also don’t really lack land, they just have no national urban planning to more evenly distribute employers. Also they have zoning boards.

  4. Beware of calling things “futurism” and people “futurists”. Sure, it’s great to look to a better future for inspiration, but the OG Italian Futurists had some attitudes that are better left in the past.

    To quote Wikipedia, and the Futurists

    Futurism had from the outset admired violence and was intensely patriotic. The Futurist Manifesto had declared, “We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.”

    I suspect a lot of Hackaday readers are little-f futurists, but probably not that many are capital-F Futurists. I love an elegant hack as much as the next guy, but I’m not gonna scorn women and die for it.

  5. You are quite right about the standard hookups for mobile homes but, you’re missing the crucial aspect of moving them. It costs thousands up to 10 thousand for a single move and that doesn’t account for the road permits, inspections and fixes that must to be made to the home before it can be moved. Mobile homes very rarely move once they are set, mobile homes are a bit of an oxymoron.

  6. Was curious so looked up the build a physical replica NFT and what a joke. You read the terms and it says you can only hire the selling firm to do all the design and construction supervision or NFT is void.

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