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March 19, 2007

Reversible Destiny


Under the heading "Technicolour Tokyo", Tokyo Times presents an alternative to cookie-cutter condo development. Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins' Reversible Destiny Lofts "In Memory of Helen Keller" have intruded into Euclidean space in Mitaka, a western suburb of Tokyo's 23 central wards. This is no architectural fancy, however, but an attempt to modify the psychology and physiology of the tenants in an attempt to boost immunity and increase longevity. The idea is that by presenting obstacles to moving about one's environment these living spaces will challenge the brain and presumably keep it active (bottom of the linked page for images). While I am skeptical at a condo whose washroom opens into the main living area with no door I am a big fan of the room for spherical games. The possibilities...

A volumetric composition with a Japanese trademark, in which the one of the whole is always visually one. The nine residential units, on three towers with colorblind eyes, are supported by reinforced concrete and extraordinary panels of prefabricated cement. Keller imagined that to see places, objects and people was like touching them. Between innocence and speculation, through play and through belief, the architectural object contains its own usage instructions on how to listen in all directions, abandoning the outside world to sink into one’s own immunosystem, eyes closed, discussing things with thermometric variations, playing the surface on which one walks like the keys of a piano, producing light by interacting with every sense of the space. To be its extension, to imagine memories never experienced, to create new movements and gestures, to listen to the vibration of colors on the volumes of things. And in the dark to play again, at entering and exiting the self, or the selves of others, like Helen Keller, for example.

Related: The Ides of March were H.P. Lovecraft's seventieth mortiversary. Though as this is celebrated almost every day at the Flea I do not feel a cad for not marking the occasion.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at March 19, 2007 07:23 AM


Those wacky Japanese . . . haven't they ever heard of curtains?

At moments like these, my grandmother's perspective would be useful.

Posted by: agent bedhead [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 19, 2007 11:10 AM

I assume this place will share the fate of Le Corbusier's "Unité d'habitation" once people move in; the intents of architects rarely survive the occupants. My favourite example of the same are some wonderful Brutalist/Cylon step-pyramid flats near Russell Square. The Brunswick Centre is most remarkable to me for the net curtains in the windows and flower pots on the balconies.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 19, 2007 11:18 AM

If “presenting obstacles to mving about one’s environment” increases longevity and challenges the brain, then my apartment is going to keep me alive and sharp as a tack well into my second century.

Incidentally, everything built on my campus in the last fifty years was designed by students of Mies van der Rohe. The buildings are as ugly as a damn pulp mill, and they're not particularly congenial to either staff or students. Most architects despise the people who inhabit their spaces.

Posted by: utron [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 19, 2007 12:46 PM

I was thinking the exact thing about my apartment. Just taking care to avoid triggering a bookalanche is enough to keep me on my toes.

York University in Toronto's northern suburbs is reportedly based on some University of California system campus; this despite Canada's winter. More successful amongst my former employers was the campus of Lancaster University, reportedly inspired by some Spanish hill-top monastery. Admittedly, it is hard to go wrong with the the hills of the Lake District on the horizon.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 19, 2007 12:50 PM

As someone who works in a van der Rohe-designed space, I am fully on board with his conception and execution of commercial office towers. They have a certain epic scale that dwarfs the ordinary and shouts "important stuff happens here".

That said, I wouldn't want to live in a house designed by him. The kind of consideration and attention to ergonomic detail that a house requires is more or less explicitly ignored with arch-Modernists.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 19, 2007 02:45 PM

Ah, I missed it as well amazingly enough.. I am busy contemplating taking on the arranging of a 27th mortiversary celebration of Ian Curtis this May 18th that I was distracted...

Posted by: Gorthos [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 21, 2007 10:47 PM