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Never Say Die: The Eccentric Architecture of Arakawa + Gins

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By : Andy Asbury    99 or more times read
Architecture has, and continues to be, constructed with the goal of marrying form and function in a purposeful and aesthetic way. Perhaps it's time for loftier goals.

Arakawa and Gins are two artists and architects that have worked together for over 45 years. Troubled by the notion of mortality, the two have decided that they're never going to die, and are working to outlaw death for everyone. One way they're doing this is by creating residential spaces that will extend the lives of those who live in them.

Their self-made anti-death philosophy is known as "reversible destiny" and their building designs are based on something they call "procedural architecture." Their design methods create unusual structures that "steer their residents to examine minutely the actions they take...and recalibrate their equanimity and self-possession, causing them to doubt themselves long enough to find a way to reinvent themselves." What this heady explanation means is that the houses they build are challenging structures, designed to keep their residents off-kilter at all times. By living in a perpetual funhouse, you're forcing your body and mind to stay active and seek new answers to problems. This could then lead to a new way of approaching life and facing obstacles from a new, enlightened perspective.

Arakawa and Gins could be onto something. There's been a great deal of discussion in the medical community about brain plasticity, and about how stimulating the brain will help keep neurological problems like Alzheimer's at bay.

In terms of the physical challenges inherent with their structures, Arakawa and Gins believe that the body can be challenged to greater health as well. They feel that their disorienting spaces can help improve one's immune system, and even recommend their designs for seniors who have health problems and mobility issues. As Arakawa explained, even if people are forced to crawl on the floor like a snake, the health benefits will be worth it.

While most people want a living space that oozes comfort, for Arakawa and Gins, comfort is a harbinger of death. As Madeline Gins explains, "comfort is rife with anxiety, and elation comes when you erase that." By living in a home that challenges your senses and is difficult to get around in, "everyday you are practicing how not to die."

Their first American structure is known as the Bioscleave House, or Lifespan Extending Villa. It is located on Long Island NY, and cost $2 million to build. The home has remained unoccupied since the project was completed.

There are no doors on any of the rooms (bathroom included), thereby forcing you to reassess your need for privacy. The walls meet at strange angles and are painted with a multitude of bright colors. The concrete floors are hilly and covered with smoothed-over bumps that make walking a challenge, and the windows are set at varying heights so you can't orientate yourself with the horizon. The kitchen is sunk into the center of the home and is practically unnoticeable. Fortunately, there are brightly colored poles to help the unbalanced. Altogether the home has a cheerful yet dizzying effect.

An instruction manual comes with the home, and a waiver must be signed before entering.

Innovative design that challenges our notions of home and life—this is what the architecture of Arakawa and Gins does for us. They force us to question things that we take for granted such as comfort and the inevitability of death. While the author of this article may prefer to live in a house that is relaxing and comfortable, it's good to know that there are still people out there who are questioning limits, challenging perceptions, and working to achieve something we all want—to outsmart death.
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