Tokyo’s Nakagin Capsule Tower Faces Demolition, and Other News

Our daily look at the world through the lens of design.

Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo

The Design Dispatch offers expertly written and essential news from the design world crafted by our dedicated team. Think of it as your cheat sheet for the day in design delivered to your inbox before you’ve had your coffee. Subscribe now

Have a news story our readers need to see? Submit it here.

The Nakagin Capsule Tower, a Metabolist masterpiece in Tokyo, faces imminent demolition. 

Rumors of demolition have long mired the Nakagin Capsule Tower, a prime example of the Metabolist architectural movement in Tokyo. According to the local magazine Tokyo Reporter, the building’s owners association decided to sell it to the landowner in May—a decision that would ultimately lead to the tower’s demolition in favor of a new, larger, and more lucrative real estate development. Poor living conditions and lack of maintenance, especially during the pandemic, were cited as reasons for the deal. “I was looking for a developer who would leave the building standing while repairing it,” Tatsuyuki Maeda, who owns 15 of the capsules, told the magazine, “but we think that it’s difficult for the management association to take measures against aging, such as large-scale repairs.” 

By Art Matters, a new contemporary art museum in Hangzhou, reveals its inaugural program. 

When the contemporary art museum By Art Matters launches in Hangzhou, China, in November, it’ll open with an exhibition called “A Show About Nothing”—a clear nod to the American sitcom Seinfeld. The new museum, helmed by Italian curator Francesco Bonami and occupying a Renzo Piano–designed office complex, will follow that up with a film installation by local artist Cheng Ran and a multimedia project called Maze of Dualities by duo Olga Mesa and Francisco Ruiz de Infante. “By Art Matters is going to be an utterly new model in terms of program and fluidity of ideas that we will have shown, but our own program will be flexible and able to respond to the most interesting impulses we will intercept from around the world,” Bonami tells the Art Newspaper. “The core demographic will be cross-generational, with a clear eye to Generation Z.”

La Samaritaine. Image courtesy of Attac

Activists spray black paint over LVMH’s La Samaritaine department store to protest inequality.

Well, that didn’t take long. Luxury conglomerate LVMH’s landmark La Samaritaine building, which recently debuted a restoration as an all-in-one shopping, dining, and hospitality destination designed by SANAA and Yabu Pushelberg, became the site of an inequality protest on Saturday. Activists from the social justice organization Attac spray-painted the storefront black and hung a banner scrawled with the message “the gang of profiteers,” featuring LVMH boss Bernard Arnault, France’s richest man, and other billionaires such as telecoms investor Patrick Drahi, luxury group Kering’s founder Francois Pinault, and Francoise Bettencourt, daughter of the late L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. 

SOM presents a vision of lunar settlements at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Developed together with the European Space Agency (ESA), Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s  (SOM) Life Beyond Earth installation provides a vision for a self-sufficient moon village with a sustainable ecosystem. The settlement is made up of interconnected clusters of inflatable habitat modules that can withstand the extreme conditions of outer space.  “Our partnership with ESA demonstrates how interdisciplinary collaboration can support international goals for space exploration. It takes an unconventional approach to extraterrestrial habitat design, combining the expertise of the building and space industries and applying knowledge from the realms of architecture, urban planning, science, commerce, and psychology,” says SOM design partner Colin Koop.

“850 Improntas” by Teresa Margolles

London’s Fourth Plinth will host an artwork that features the faces of 850 transgender people.

Teresa Margolles has been chosen to display an artwork, called 850 Improntas, on the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square, one of the world’s highest-profile public art commissions. The sculpture, scheduled to go on display in 2024, will feature casts of the faces of 850 transgender people from London and around the world arranged in the form of a Tzompantli, a skull rack from Mesoamerican civilizations that was often used to display the remains of sacrifice victims or prisoners of war. Her expectation is that London’s weather will cause the sculpture to slowly fade away, leaving somewhat of an “anti-monument.” Until then, a sculpture by Samson Kambalu based on a 1914 photograph of the preacher John Chilembwe and English missionary John Chorley will go on display at the site in late 2022 after Heather Phillipson’s giant sculpture of a dollop of whipped cream gets taken down that September.   

A wooden tower in Rotterdam gets delayed due to “explosively high” timber prices.

Construction of Rotterdam’s first wooden residential tower, SAWA, has been put on pause thanks to the global timber shortage that has caused prices to spike. Billed as the most eco-friendly development in The Netherlands, Mei Architects is behind the design of the 109-unit building in the former dock area of Schiemond. Though lumber prices have pulled back from the high, they still remain higher than pre-pandemic levels. When finished, more than 90 percent of the structure will be comprised of timber sourced from the sustainably managed forest in Scandinavia. “For every tree felled for SAWA, three trees are replanted,” the project’s website says.

Image courtesy of Carlo Ratti Associati

Today’s attractive distractions:

Melbourne toys with AR public art to cure the city’s pandemic malaise.

Carlo Ratti’s floating spheres visualize how much CO2 is stored in trees.

A new proposal would create 24-hour entertainment districts in New York.

Juergen Teller lends some archival works to a Palace capsule collection.

All Stories