A few blog posts popped up last week about a Japanese 'prefab icon', soon to be demolished. At Treehugger, Lloyd Alter described the building:
"Kisho Kurokawa's 1972 Capsule Tower was, along with Moshe Safdie's Habitat in Montreal, the pioneer in modernist multiple unit prefab. 140 capsules were attached by high tension bolts to a central core. Each of the tiny rooms had built in TV's and reel-to-reel tape decks, washrooms and were pre-assembled in a factory then hoisted by crane and fastened to the concrete core shaft."Inhabitat quickly chimed in (and shows some more photos):
"Two weeks ago, the decision was made to replace the Capsule Tower with a new 14-story tower, despite resistance from Kurokawa, who has been touting the flexibility of the building and even proposed the modernization of the tower by replacing old capsules with more modern units."The Independet UK has a few more details about the project:
"...the demolition campaigners complain that Mr Kurokawa's units are too difficult to maintain. Drainage and water pipes are damaged, and plans to unclip the capsules and refurbish them have never come to fruition. Residents are also afraid that asbestos used in construction poses a health risk....Its 140 units are so small and functional that they have been disparagingly compared to the interior of a Nasa space shuttle."And also includes some good reasons as to why the tower shouldn't be demolished:
"...it remains a destination for tourists interested in design, particularly from Europe, where the Nagakin tower's principles are being championed. The British Government has argued that a modified version of this modular housing could help to meet housebuilding targets. Such is the demand to see the tower that a mock-up of one of the capsules is open to visitors."
Some searching around the web returned some recent news about UK prefabs being demolished. Back in January, TreeHugger reported on a similar large prefab building that they said might be torn down:
"...there were a few problems, apparently including putting the stronger, heavier ground floor units on the top and vice versa, described in the Guardian as 'fatal mismatches'....if the cost of repairing the fault is excessive, they will consider demolishing the whole structure."UK site Building confirmed that the development would be razed:
"Last month, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation announced that it was to demolish the cutting-edge Caspar development in Leeds, which has been standing for less than two years. This type of event — unfortunate but probably quite rare — colours views on modern methods of construction..."
While they aren't modern "prefab", classic post-war modular housing is also being replaced in the UK. News Shopper reports that the residents are protesting the demolition:
"Eighty-three homeowners and tenants have signed an online petition on the Downing Street website, calling for their prefab estate in Catford, built after the Second World War, to be saved....It would cost £8.4m over the next 30 years to deal with repairs and improvements."And the BBC ran a story discussing the demolition and philosophizing about prefab in general:
"Property prices are sky high in London, and 100,000 new homes are urgently needed in the South-East. So are prefabs the answer - or an ugly blast from the past?...Prefabs are quick to build, environmentally-sound, and an architect's dream. But almost always they cost more to build than traditional homes. And, when damaged, it is often hard to repair them. The original WW2 prefabs were only designed to last 15 years."