A preservation group has gained momentum in its drive to save perhaps the most famous building of the Metabolism movement from its long-delayed demolition.

The Nakagin Capsule Tower was designed by Kisho Kurokawa (1934-2007) and completed in 1972, just a stone’s throw from Tokyo’s luxurious Ginza district.

The building is easily recognizable for its capsule rooms jutting out from the sides.

The owners of the building agreed in 2007 to tear down the aging structure after corroded piping and other deterioration came to light.

However, the construction company in charge of the demolition was liquidated during the global financial crisis stemming from the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.

The owners were unable to find another demolition crew, and the effectiveness of their 2007 decision expired after two years.

Nakagin Integration Inc., a real estate company, built the apartment and initially sold 140 rooms. Currently, 90 rooms are still in use.

In the meantime, a group seeking to preserve the building has become more active.

“It was my dream to live in a capsule,” said Tatsuyuki Maeda, an advertising company worker who purchased one of the rooms in 2010.

In 2014, Maeda started a project to conserve and rejuvenate the Nakagin Capsule Tower and made himself representative of the group.

He also started Capsule Bank, a free system that connects owners who want to sell their capsules with prospective buyers. Nearly 10 rooms have since found new owners through his system.

To maintain the momentum, he renovated a room for visitor tours held around twice a month. He also crowd-funded to publish a photography book in 2015 of people’s lives in the building.

“It is important to publicize the tower to show people who thought it was long gone that it is actually still here standing,” Maeda said. “And we must increase the number of supporters for conservation to realize large-scale restoration and designation as a cultural property.”

The Metabolism movement started in Japan in 1960. It advocated architecture that can “grow” to suit changes in time and requirements by replacing space and functions.

Each individual capsule in the building, for example, can be replaced if necessary.

According to Yoshiyuki Yamana, professor of architectural history at the Tokyo University of Science, Metabolism is a globally recognized movement in modern architectural history, and the Nakagin Capsule Tower is considered a symbol of the movement.

One of the few surviving examples of the movement, the tower is often taken up in architectural history classes overseas, Yamana said.

“It certainly has enough value to be designated an important cultural property by the government, but gaining consent from unit owners would be needed,” Yamana said.

Opinions of unit owners are almost evenly split between preservation and demolition.

Last year, a third party conducted a seismic safety evaluation of the building after it was called for at a general meeting of the owners.

The study results found the middle part of the 45-year-old building has low seismic resistance and does not meet the current safety standards for earthquakes.

Nakagin, which has always been in charge of maintenance of the building and still owns 16 capsules and rental offices on the first and second floors, is seeking demolition and the construction of a new building on the site.

“There is a risk of the capsules collapsing if a strong earthquake strikes or in other events,” said a Nakagin employee in charge of the building. “If an accident occurs, the responsibility would lie with the owners’ association, of which we are a member, and the owners of each capsule.”

In addition, the Nakagin employee said large-scale restoration or renovation work to improve the quake-resistance of the building would spoil its familiar appearance.

“There would be a need to support the building with external posts and to remove some of the capsules,” the employee said.

Still, Nakagin is not planning to sell its properties to a third party.

“We would be criticized if we passed on our responsibility as the original (real estate developer) of the structure,” the employee said.

Another owners’ meeting at the end of last year voted in favor of submitting an “application for demolition” to the Chuo Ward government under the initiative of the pro-rebuilding group.

If the ward government approves the application, it does not mean the structure will be forcibly knocked down. Officials will check the 2016 seismic resistance report to confirm the building does not meet safety standards.

To check dates and apply for viewing tours at the Nakagin Capsule Tower, visit Maeda’s website: (https://www.nakagincapsuletower.com/).