The death of Metabolism- the New Sky Biru

April 20, 2009 · Haikyo, Residential, Tokyo-to 

The New Sky Building in Shinjuku belongs to the stable of architecture known as Metabolism, a 1970’s movement in Japan to create utilitarian, utopian, bolt-on and off structures that can change and evolve as needed.  It was a grand-sounding vision that never went mainstream, as Metabolist buildings were often a nightmare to construct and far too much effort to actually ‘transform’ by re-bolting. Another example is the Nakagin Capsule Hotel Tower in Shimbashi- slated for destruction.

Bolt-on modules up the left side.

I first heard about this place from the Japanese Eye blog and book-marked it in my mind for shooting. Some time later and I’d forgotten about it, then one Adrian Tan offered me the location in exchange for the location of the Fuchu Air Base- a trade I was happy to make.

Battleship.

I turned up thinking the place might be a haikyo, but it turned out to have some security on the ground floor and some work going on a few floors up. I was still able to stroll in the first floor though and look around, just staying clear of the one occupied room.

Mail boxes, corridor.

The steps to the second floor were only half-heartedly roped off so I stepped over and went up. The first floor was an open concrete roof area, looking up to the main structure, with walkways almost tunneled through it at wonky angles.

Up.
.

Bolt-on components.
.

Round the corner was a weirdly small spiral staircase winding up to the area where people were active in a room at the end of a corridor. I didn’t dare poke my head around the corner when I saw the light from their room and heard movement.

Staircase.
.

Odd little port holes.

FACTFILE

Location – Shinjuku.

Entry – Over a little bit of rope, no signs.

Facts – 1970’s.

Highlights – When leaving and stepping back over the rope I caught my foot and nearly fell, with a salaryman standing nearby talking on his phone and watching me. Embarassing.

TOKYO

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Comments:
16 Responses to “The death of Metabolism- the New Sky Biru
  1. SY says:

    It’s like the buildings in Chungking Express. Very Un-J style. The snaky floor looks cool.

  2. kehv says:

    Hello
    Where is this building exactly? Could you for example make a map marker for it :)

  3. Kyna says:

    I went there yesterday, and there’s a lot of work going on at the moment. I didn’t bump into anyone though, and I went up to the Roof floor, 13th floor, 3rd floor, and had a good look around. It seemed pretty empty, and all the doors were locked. I’m worried they’re going to rip it down though, as at the moment it’s covered in those green safety nets that always seem to preceed demolition. It’s a shame, I really want to move there.

  4. ML says:

    This is awful – a punch to the gut. I lived in the neighborhood during the high times of the eighties. I made it to the roof during its full occupancy glory days. Seeing it like this is appalling. I just now learned of the ‘haikyo’ thing through your blog, it’s like watching a friend die. I heard things were bad, but now I know. Not your fault of course, thanks for your hard work.

  5. Paul says:

    Its on the big ol’ street that borders Shinjuku with Shin Okubo (K-Town). Just head north from Shinjuku station east exit through kabukicho until you see the hanguel restaurant signage or the DMZ-themed military shop, or the crazy bright white lit Korean male model photo supermarkets. Its near the whacked out Don Quiote compound-style outlet, just about one block east on the same side of the street. Its kinda sandwiched between two buildings so it can be hard to spot. The front profile is the thinnest part too, so you can easily wander straight on by. However, theres an alley about 20 m further east that elevates a little as it runs north into someone’s driveway. Its very easy to get a good look at the side profile from along there.

  6. matthew says:

    i’ve always loved this building on shoku-an dori. it needs to be listed and restored to pristine condition! it’s a gem and your fotos are wonderful.

  7. MJG says:

    SY- definitely un-J style, good call.

    kehv- It`s somewhere in Shinjuku, I`ve lost the map to it myself. Probably a google search for new sky biru will turn it up. Good luck!

    Kyna- You`d live there? Shudders… Seems a bit crumbly and old, to be honest. Anything much to see on the roof? I didn`t have the bottle to go all the way up.

    ML- Right, I can imagine it must be saddening to see a place you care about go south. They demolished the flats I used to live in at University recently. Do I feel sad? Hmm, actually no, but maybe that`s a bad example, as they were pretty crappy. But I take your point, and glad you like the site.

    Paul- Ah, thanks. kehv, see this comment.

    Matthew- I`d agree, if they could be bother to restore it it would be great, vintage lodgings. But I doubt J-people would go for it. Vintage only works here for clothes, for buildings it`s gotta be shiny glass and steel new.

  8. Paul says:

    Roof is freaky shit. Theres a bow and a poop deck.

  9. jus says:

    hi michael. thanks for the info and i love the read.

    i decided to visit the building after reading your article and as an amateur photographer, decided to take a few shots of it which i will be putting up in the coming weeks. i decided to title the series the same as you article to show appreciation for your information. obviously, i’ve credited you with the information. cheers!

  10. Dan says:

    any one ever manage to get into one of the apartments? very cool, i hope it does not get torn down.

  11. [...] not as iconic as the Nakagin Capsule Tower, the New Sky Building (aka Gunkan Mansion, or “Warship Condo”) stands as a landmark to architectural [...]

  12. zoomtokyo says:

    From what I gather, its first tenants were largely employed in the nightlife industry in nearby Kabukicho in the 70s. A suicide or two or more in the building made it increasingly difficult to rent to Japanese tenants, and now the tenants are largely foreigners (Koreans), who tend to be more pragmatic of such things. This trend seems to explain the building’s current state of neglect — upscale tenants have simply drifted off over the years.

  13. Bob says:

    This is not a Metabolist building. Fact check/research fail.

    Also, almost every single ‘fact’ about this building’s background written in the post or the comments is false.

    Nicely done, folks.

  14. Vina Wagley says:

    Das alte Design hat mir besser gefallen. Wenn ihc ehrlich bin. Aber macht ja nichts ;) Man gewöhnt sich bestimmt dran.

  15. mark says:

    I thought I saw this from the train almost in Okubo right? it does look like Yamato ship on top.

  16. Kyle says:

    I walked by this building last week and it appears to be in the process of being fixed up. Parts of it have been painted green (yuck), and there seems to be work going on at ground level in front as well.

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