In Tokyo, Sam Kriss paid a visit to the Nakagin Capsule Tower, the crowning achievement of an architecture collective called the Metabolists. Its modular design comprises a series of pods, each containing a bed, a kitchen, a toilet, and some storage space—and more pods could be added or subtracted as its residents deemed appropriate. A beautiful idea, right? Well, it failed: “Some of the pods are still inhabited, but it’s hard to see how. From outside, the tower looked like a dying animal, sweating and greasy in the heat, trapped inside its wire netting. Looking up, you could see that some capsules had been half-filled with rotting garbage, a rippling line of trash drawn across their single windows. Inside, panels peel from the ceilings and mold crawls underneath; grime and seepage scorches the concrete with strange, bubbling forms. Kurokawa’s masterpiece was an utter, unsalvageable failure.”

The Sad Story of the Nakagin Capsule Tower, and Other News