In October 2018 I was invited by the Reversible Destiny Foundation Tokyo Office to reside in the Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka- In memory of Helen Keller to develop my understanding of Shusaku Arakawa’s and Madeleine Gins (hereafter A+G) approach to architecture.
With its juxtaposed architectural elements, intersecting wall configurations and bright colors the buildings by A+G overturn the concept of architecture to date. Free of established design rules their architectural pataphysics even suggest to defy gravity. As artist-and-philosopher turned architects A+G creatively make mistakes on purpose by hanging doors on the ceiling, tilting floors and randomly place columns as to create an indoor forest. Intentionally they throw you of balance just enough to start questioning the relationship between body and environment. What for A+G counts, rather than proposing ‘innovative architecture’, is architecture as way to innovate and change the world.
Upon entering my loft I learn that reading the discussion on crisis ethics in Architectural Body is required for Reversible Destiny Loft dwellers. More than an architectural intervention that celebrates a playful life the Lofts are also a work of embodied and vital philosophy. A + G see architecture not merely as passive, shelter providing or monumental structures, but as active participant in life and death matters. They believe that when fully associating yourself with your architectural surrounds you can succeed in outliving your death sentences. Therefore, moving beyond an ideology of time, A+G introduce to you an architectural life in which dying is illegal. In line with the procedural philosophy inhabitation of the lofts therefor comes together with a list of playful and sensorium extending ‘instructions for use’. For example ‘In addition to treating your floor a keyboard, from time to time enter into conversation with it (for example: “hello’ ‘What is going on with you’ etc.. )’ and ‘Every month move through your loft as a different animal (snake, deer, tortoise, elephant, giraffe, penguin, etc.).
As architects we can asks ourselves if we want to live in an apartment that can help you to understand the nature and extent of interactions between us and the universe and if we actually want to learn ‘how not to die’. Moreover, an architectural intervention that needs a philosophical text and instructions for use, leaves the critic with some questions. Is the architectural not good enough to stand by itself?
The Lofts, including their philosophy, provide a form of tacit knowledge that is, especially in contemporary urban landscape, an utmost valuable learning school for every architect. Activating an architectural procedural means to make tacit knowledge explicit. The double operation of thinking and (counter) experiencing makes it possible to understand what situated body awareness means conceptually as well as experientially. New meaning and actual habitual changes emerge from which surprisingly different experiences inevitably form.