Tunnel of Light 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale, Japanese Gorge Art Photos

Tunnel of Light 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale by MAD Architects

Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel Artistic Spaces in Japan design by MAD Architects

11 Aug 2018

Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel Restoration by MAD

Location: Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel, Niigata Prefecture, Japan

MAD Restores the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel with Artistic Spaces for the 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale

MAD Architects, led by Ma Yansong, has completed the restoration of the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel in Japan’s Niigata prefecture. The revitalization project sees the installation of several permanent artistic spaces along the historic lookout tunnel, with the intention of bringing back the cultural energy that once empowered the region. The “Tunnel of Light” opened on the occasion of the 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale.

Tunnel of Light 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale by MAD Architects

Photos by Nacasa & Partners Inc.

Located in the heart of Japan’s snow country, Echigo-Tsumari is home to mountainous terrain and a satoyama which is an agricultural expanse, where traditional ways of farming are still being practiced. While rich in nature, the region has slowly been suffering from an aging and decreasing population – a serious phenomenon that has seen many of the young, rural people moving to the big cities for work or education opportunities. This has left the elderly (65+ years) accounting for 37% of the community, while the average level in Japan is 27.7%.

Tunnel of Light 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale by MAD Architects

In 2000, Fram Kitagawa founded the Echigo-Tsumari Triennale as a means of restoring the cultural energy that had become lost in the region. Spanning more than 760 square kilometers, the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field hosts approximately 160 artworks, across 200 villages. The art installations are realized in collaboration between internationally renowned artists and locals, and are dispersed throughout the area’s fields, forests, empty houses, schools, and other abandoned spaces. Works from past editions have remained intact, forming an integral part of the local environment, even after the triennale has concluded, as a means of culturally enriching the area.

Tunnel of Light 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale by MAD Architects

In a community that has lost its dynamism, and has become isolated, the Echigo-Tsumari Triennale seeks to re-connect people with the place, as well as with one another. While viewing artworks, visitors must physically traverse the terraced rice fields, or walk through the beech wood forest. Thus, it presents a new model for how humans can relate to nature, cultivating the land with art and cultural works as an ongoing process of urban reactivation. In turn, it also encourages co-operation between different generations and neighbouring regions.

Tunnel of Light 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale by MAD Architects

As part of the 2018 program, MAD Architects was invited to revitalize the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel – a historic, 750-meter passageway that cuts through distinctive rock formations, offering panoramic views over one of Japan’s three great chasms.

Tunnel of Light 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale by MAD Architects in Japan

Drawing on the ‘five elements’ of nature (wood, earth, metal, fire, water), MAD’s scheme transforms points along the historic tunnel through the realization of several architectural spaces and artistic atmospheres. The designs rethink the relationship between humans and nature, and seek to re-connect locals and visitors alike with the majestic beauty of the land.

Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel Restoration by MAD Architects in Japan

“Periscope” (wood)
Upon the approach to the tunnel, a small wooden ‘hut’ has been erected that serves as the café, souvenir shop (with locally made crafts) on the ground floor. Inside the pitched cedar roof on the upper level, is a hot spring foot spa. A circular aperture – the “Periscope” – in the ceiling opens up towards the roof. Encircled by mirrored lenses that reflect the nature of the surrounding site inwards, the subtle intervention gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy the natural scenery outdoors, while they have a foot bath and relax within the warmth of the wooden interior.

Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel Restoration by MAD Architects in Japan

“Expression of Color” (earth)
The entrance to the tunnel has been restored to its former glory, and leads the way to the newly renovated passage. Originally illuminated through natural means, it has been outfitted with a series of different coloured lights which define each lookout point along the tunnel. Captured as “The Expression” of the space, their vibrancy, in combination with mysterious music, sets a subtle but dynamic ambiance that sparks a certain curiosity of the unknown for those who are wandering through.

Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel Restoration by MAD Architects in Japan

“Invisible Bubble” (metal)
The first of the lookout point renovations is the “Invisible Bubble”. As if landing from another world, the capsule-like structure gently mirrors the silhouette of the tunnel itself, while reflecting its surroundings. Functioning as a toilet, the wall which faces towards the gorge is transparent. This exterior window is covered in a metallic film that only allows one-way views from the inside out, playing with the notion of public and private. Providing a quiet escape, a place of solitude, it is an intimate space that finds itself in an openly public setting. It puts into question how people react when they think that no one is watching – an ideal corner of contemplation.

Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel Restoration by MAD Architects in Japan

“The Drop” (fire)
‘Dew drops’ are scattered along the curvature of the second lookout point. “The Drop” is a series of reflective openings that are like windows of uncertainty. While they project a reality by mirroring the natural environment, they also appear surreal, like molecules of water, they are suspended from the ceiling and walls, frozen in time. As one looks into these convex mirrors, backlit by fiery, red light, they experience an alternative connection with nature – one that is at once mysterious and warm.

Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel Restoration by MAD Architects in Japan

“Light Cave” (water)
The culmination of the restoration is expressed in the form of the “Light Cave”. Semi-polished stainless steel lines the tunnel, drawing the distinct rock formations, lush greenery, and turquoise water of the treasured terrain, into the enclosed space. A shallow pool of water gently ripples with the breeze of the wind. In turn, the images of the gorge reflected from the cave cast themselves onto the water – an infinite illusion of nature. The essence of the “Light Cave” brings both a lightness and stillness into the once dark, dewy tunnel, invoking a feeling of everlasting solitude.

Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel Restoration by MAD Architects in Japan

MAD’s “Tunnel of Light” is an artistic transformation that demonstrates how art and nature can come together to reinvigorate a community. Each one of the installations, forms a poetic space where visitors can transcend the role of observer, and become an active participant – allowing individuals to place themselves in nature in unexpected ways.

Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel Restoration by MAD Architects in Japan

Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel Restoration by MAD – Building Information

Tunnel of Light
Echigo-Tsumari, Japan

Design Team: Ma Yansong, Yosuke Hayano, Dang Qun, Hiroki Fujino, Kazushi Miyamoto, Yuki Ishigami
Executive Architect: Green sigma Co., Ltd.

Photographs: Nacasa & Partners Inc., Japan

Tunnel of Light 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale Japan images / information from MAD Architects

MAD Architects

Location: Kiyotsu, Japan

New Japanese Architecture

Contemporary Japanese Architecture

Japanese Architecture Design – chronological list

Japanese Architecture News

Archasm Tokyo (Anti) Library Architecture Contest
Archasm Tokyo Anti Library Competition
image courtesy of architecture contest organisers
Japanese Architecture Design Competition 2018

The Clearwater Building, Niseko, Hokkaido, Northern Japan
Design: Seshimo Architects + Peter Hahn Associates
The Clearwater Building
photography : Junji Kojima / 45gPhotography, Aaron Jamieson
The Clearwater Building in Hokkaido

Private Resort XIV Toba Bettei, Arashima, Toba City, Mie
Private Resort XIV Toba
photo : Nacása & Partners Inc.
Private Resort XIV Toba Bettei in Ise-Shima

WADA Sports Shop, Himeji-shi, Kansai region
Architect: KTX archiLAB
WADA Sports Shop in Himeji-shi
photo © Stirling Elmendorf
WADA Sports Shop in Himeji-shi

Japanese Architecture – key projects

Tokyo Building Designs

Tokyo Houses

Comments / photos for Tunnel of Light 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale by MAD Architects page welcome

Website: Kiyotsu Gorge Japan