What's wrong with modern architecture? Why has the "machine for living" left us wanting?
To begin, it has too many straight lines:
An internationally acclaimed, award-winning painter-turned-architectural-designer, Shusaku Arakawa brands typical modern Japan dwellings as lifeless and inhuman -- not to mention harmful. This is, he insists, partly because they feature too many straight lines and flat planes that do not exist in nature.
By contrast, Arakawa, who now bases himself in New York, advocates "architecture that defies death." How? By incorporating inconveniences and obstacles in his designs in order to bring people's sensory perception back to life -- or by helping them "externalize" themselves, as the 69-year-old artist describes it.
A case in point is Arakawa's latest work, "Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka in Memory of Helen Keller," in Mitaka, Tokyo. His work on a nine-unit condo there in the capital's western outskirts symbolizes what he terms his mission to create "an apparatus through which we bring our life closer to eternity."
Each of the condos for sale in this complex in a Tokyo suburb is round in shape, with spaces surrounding a kitchen in the middle. None of the rooms have doors.
The "study" has no place for a desk, let alone a flat work surface. Its light switch is mounted at ankle height, and the intercom is mounted at a 45 degree angle on the wall. Elsewhere in the unit the floors slope at a 20-degree angle, and resemble the surface of the moon.
The various ways the arrangement of the condo's parts play with expectations are meant to heighten the senses and force a dialogue on how people interact with their surroundings. Straight lines and right angles are deadening and constitute a kind of physical and mental barrier; through conscious reversal of this dull "destiny," people will live more consciously, Arakawa says.