Schemata Architects / Do-C, Nine Hours Capsule Hotel, Shibuya-Ku

Schemata Architects has taken a classic capsule hotel – the old fallback for Japanese workers who’d missed the last train home – and renewed the typology's reputation

Project Info

Client: Nine Hours
Architect: Schemata Architects
Size: 726 sq m
Completion: December 2017

Words by Ellen Peirson
Images by Nacasa & Partners Inc

Tokyo-based Schemata Architects has taken an existing capsule hotel in the Shibuya- Ku commercial district of Toyko and given it not only a fresh new look, but also a whole new set of intentions. Hotelier Nine Hours is looking to renew the public perceptions of capsule hotels by providing an additional level of luxury – in this case with the introduction of saunas – seeing a return to the traditional typology of Japanese capsule hotels.

First conceived in Osaka to coincide with the increase in taxi fares, capsule hotels became the fallback for those unable to get home after work. Almost solely used by drunk male office workers having missed the last train home, their reputation became sordid, raucous and dirty. Later, when recession hit, for many they became affordable homes, rented monthly by the underemployed and those out of work. Swept with the same miserable mist that takes hold of any place left decrepit by recession, they became the last resort for those fallen on hard times. Nine Hours plans to renew the reputation of capsule hotels and give them a new meaning and purpose.

In a time when luxury resorts do all they can to keep you within their walls during your stay, Nine Hours offer something different. Its mission is for users to spend as little time as possible with them. Being bookable by the hour, the guest is given full control over their stay and is assured that they are only paying for what is really necessary. Capsule hotels already seek to minimise the space required to sleep to the fundamental. Nine Hours has taken this further and minimised the time required for an acceptable night’s sleep, simplifying a hotel stay to just the essentials and quantified these: an hour to shower, seven to sleep and an hour to get ready.

Finishes at the capsule hotel are minimal, such as with the sauna areaFinishes at the capsule hotel are minimal, such as with the sauna area

Do-C is a departure from Nine Hours’ usual designs, as it tends to build its capsules and hotels from scratch. For Do-C it designed and renovated everything but the capsules and built the hotel around them. Nine Hours has evolved its original concept for Do-C, integrating saunas to add a layer of luxury to the purposefully minimal offerings.

The minimalist nature of the hotel extends far beyond just its use. Surfaces are left unadorned and with an unfinished feel. All finishes within the hotel seem purely functional. The majority of the interiors are finished in timber while the shower areas and sauna circulation spaces have clear FRP on all surfaces to ensure waterproofing. Whether a design or a budget decision, the look and feel of the hotel reassures the guest that their money isn’t going on unnecessary beautification.

By retaining the original capsules, Schemata Architects took on the challenge of creating a contemporary feel with an inherently retro feature and one that is so fundamental to the scheme. ‘The colour of the existing capsules – an old-fashioned beige reminiscent of the retro design period – was rather difficult to handle, but we intentionally used it as a base colour for the interior to eradicate the impression of the existing capsules,’ says Schemata Architects. It has taken the beige of the existing capsules and applied it to more contemporary finishes throughout the scheme, adding warmth.

With such bold capsules, the rest of the design had to be understated. Schemata Architects employed plywood joinery and exposed concrete flooring. To these finishes, an innately modern and graphic wayfinding strategy was applied in the same straightforward and clean style that is seen throughout the hotel in its dedication to minimalism.

This updates and grounds the scheme in the present and shows that Schemata Architects has avoided playing up the retro element of the hotel.

Banks of capsules offer a night’s sleepBanks of capsules offer a night’s sleep

With the introduction of saunas, the hotel seems to move away from the theory that guests only need to ‘shower, sleep and rest’. They see a return to the typical view of a capsule hotel in a contemporary design. ‘The existing building was actually not equipped with saunas, but we intentionally recreated the stereotypical image by adding them, while dispelling the conventional impression,’ says Schemata Architects.

With a new concept executed so accurately, Do-C looks set to eradicate the jaded image of capsule hotels. Schemata Architects has created an atmosphere so tranquil that it’s disputable whether visitors will abide by Nine Hours’ desire to create a hotel for visitors to spend as little time as possible in.


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