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Ambiguous Zones, 3

The Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka (In Memory of Helen Keller) in its near-completion phase, 2005, Tokyo. Photo by Masataka Nakano

Dear Friends,

Did you know that today, October 15th, is the official “birthday” of the Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka (In Memory of Helen Keller) in Tokyo? Designed by Arakawa+Gins and completed on this day in 2005, it is one of the most unique apartment buildings in Japan. There are a total of nine units in the building: five of them are currently occupied by tenants, two are offered for short-term stays and remote work space programs as well as group tours, events, and workshops, and the last two units house the ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office, which manages all aspects of the operations there. The Mitaka Lofts has attracted thousands of people from around the world, many of whom have made a special pilgrimage to experience the space in person. At the time of its opening 16 years ago, people were beguiled by it and they hotly debated whether this was architecture or art. Arakawa+Gins’s vision, however, was clear that this was to be a residential building, inhabited and used by people. Through this creation, they aspired to change Japan and even the whole world.

In this third edition of Ambiguous Zones, we share with you the “making of” the Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka accompanied by a selection of architectural renderings and photographs that attests to its distinctive and complex construction.

Because the building has received many thousands of visitors every year for the past 16 years, there is great need for repair and conservation. The Tokyo Office is gearing up for a global crowdfunding initiative, launching early next year* for this ongoing project of preservation, so please stay tuned for more information in the coming months. In the meantime, we hope that AZ3 will convey the significance of this actively lived and highly engaging work of Arakawa+Gins.

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

 

Arakawa in front of the Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka (In Memory of Helen Keller) on October 15, 2005, Tokyo. Photo by Momoyo Homma

The main inspiration for the design of the lofts was Helen Keller. In what kind of space would she have wanted to live? Her life’s story taught us that each of our bodies is unique and we are all born with an individual ability to form and use its surrounding space and environment. The Mitaka Lofts, as an experiential laboratory, functions as a space that instructs us and our body toward boundless freedom. There are many architectural elements that are unusual, to say the least. One of the most distinct is the floor with a series of small bumps that constantly make you conscious of the sole of your feet and at the same time stimulate blood circulation. For the visually impaired, like Helen Keller, this feature helps them navigate the room.  

Madeline Gins, Helen Keller or Arakawa, Japanese edition, Tokyo: Shinshokan, 2010.
Making the floor of the lofts with bumps

Other interesting components are floor-to-ceiling vertical poles that can have a variety of functions if you tap into your imagination. They can be exercise poles, ladders, shelves, and for people with walking difficulties, bars to grab onto that offer support as they move about in the space.

Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka, Five-Part Loft, 2001, digital rendering
Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka, Wall-Configurations + Volumes, Complete Set of Shape-Defining Elements, 2005, blueprint

 

Because of the role that Helen Keller played in the ideation of the design, the Mitaka Lofts has been a focus of interest among scholars not only of art and architecture but also from the areas of welfare, medicine, and physical therapy. In addition, the creatives who are involved in product or environmental design for people with disabilities also pay attention to this building in order to activate the power of alternative thinking. In this way, A+G’s unconventional philosophy contributes to a building of an inclusive and cooperative society that the world needs today.

In their 2002 publication Architectural Body, Arakawa and Gins wrote that “although our species, like every other species, has a characteristic architecture that serves its members well by increasing their chances of survival, it is far from having an architecture that could redefine life. The architecture we speak of in this book is within our species’ reach. It will be a way to undo, loosening to widen and re-cast, the concept of person.”** Realizing such an architecture was an enormously complicated challenge. Knowing there was no precedent of this kind and driven by a singular passion, Arakawa visited a number of top executives of major construction companies in Japan. Ultimately, a dream team consisting of veterans of the field was formed in Tokyo to take on the task: Yasui Architects & Engineers, Inc. finalized the detailed design and Takenaka Corporation worked on the construction.

Construction in progress
Construction in progress, February 10, 2005
(top) Construction in progress, (bottom) Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka, digital rendering

At its birth, the Mitaka Lofts was received as an eccentric artwork and a curious erection in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Tokyo. While it still stands out when viewed from the street with its vibrant colors and whimsical shapes, it has gained the respect and affection of those who have resided/reside there and have participated in various events and programs. It is a building that continues to live and grow with every person’s unique experience and is a place where anyone who enters becomes the main character in the story of the “making of”.   

Arakawa and Momoyo Homma (Director, ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office) inside one of the loft units, 2005. On the kitchen counter, by Arakawa’s right hand is a Japanese edition of the book Architectural Body published in 2004.
Arakawa at the construction site, 2005. Photo by Masataka Nakano
Aerial view showing the rooftop garden
Night view, 2006

**The ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office already launched a crowdfunding campaign last month to raise funds for the first phase of this long-term project through the platform Motion Gallery based in Japan. Since the system doesn’t readily support donations coming from countries other than Japan, we are preparing a separate platform for English-speaking people to participate in the project.
**Madeline Gins and Arakawa, Architectural Body (Tuscaloosa and London: University of Alabama Press, 2002), xi–xii.

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Children Who Won’t Die, Arakawa / WE, Madeline Gins

Reversible Destiny Foundation is pleased to announce that the International edition of the Documentary Films Childen Who Won’t Die and We, directed by Nobu Yamaoka, is now available for purchase online

The two documentary films explore in depth the life and works of Arakawa and Madeline Gins, including interviews with the artists, their friends, professionals from various disciplines as well as the residents of Arakawa+Gins’s architectural works.

For purchase information: http://www.architectural-body.com

 

Film 1: Children Who Won’t Die, ARAKAWA
Language: Japanese / Subtitle: English, Japanese
Running Time: 80mins

Can a house help us not to die? Artists/scientists/revolutionaries Madeline Gins and Shusaku Arakawa declared that our lives need not end, and created dwellings whose purpose is to reverse our destiny and defy death itself.
The Reversible Destiny Lofts in Tokyo, with their vivid colors, undulating floors, irregular lines, and spherical rooms were the culmination of their research and speculation. Arakawa said, “Living here, human beings will never die, as the potential ability of their bodies can be maximally developed.” This film includes interviews with residents of the Reversible Destiny Lofts and an astrophysicist, as well as growth records of children who were raised in these remarkable buildings. Children Who Won’t Die proudly sings a celebration of life, highlighting the possibilities of a world no one could ever have imagined before.

Cast:
Shusaku Arakawa
Haruo Saji
Yuma Yamaoka
Sono Yamaoka
Residents of Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka

Director: Nobu Yamaoka
Music: Keiichiro Shibuya
Narrator: Tadanobu Asano

 

Film 2: WE, Madeline Gins
Language: English / Subtitle: Japanese
Running time: 60 mins

How does the body meet the future? Madeline Gins – poet, architect, visionary – talks about the origin of creation, its secrets, and the future of humanity. This film documents a visit with her to her studio and to the Bioscleave House in East Hampton, NY  – the only example in the USA of the revolutionary, death-defying architecture she developed with Shusaku Arakawa. Gins describes her first encounter with Arakawa, and sheds light on his representative works, including his classic series of artworks, Mechanism of Meaning, which served as the foundation for the procedural architecture projects they later created together. The film also shows visitors navigating in, reacting to, and being transformed by the peculiarities and wonders of the space of Bioscleave House.

Cast:
Madeline Gins
Shusaku Arakawa
Lucas Poole
Sofiane Poole
Gillian Poole
Hubert Poole

Director: Nobu Yamaoka

 

For more information please visit: http://www.architectural-body.com