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Reversed Encounters

My essay 'Reversed Encounters: Initial Findings on Japan-ness in Arakawa and Gin' is now published in the new Rowman and Littlefield publication Architectures of Life and Death: The Eco-Aestetics of the Built Environment. After the conference Architectures of Life and Death, hosted by the theory chair of the TU Delft Faculty of Architecture in May 2019, editors Andrej Radman and Stavros Kousoulas invited me to contribute a chapter to their publication. In this chapter I ellaborate on my experiential insights as collected during performative fieldwork in the Bioscleave House—Life Span Extending Villa in East Hampton, New York, and the Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka—in Memory of Hellen Keller in Mitaka in Toyko by Japanese artist Shusaku Arakawa and American poet and philosopher Madeline Gins.

By turning their focus to architecture, Arakawa and Gins not only overturn the concept of modern architecture, but more specifically introduce an architectural turn in the philosophy of life.


As artists of the sensible and relational lived experience that produces styles for living and dying, critical to the themes and issues of this volume, Arakawa and Gins take their job very seriously. They construct an architectural life in which dying is illegal. But precisely how do

they believe they can make architecture capable of achieving such lofty aims?

Arakawa’s Japanese background influenced their philosophy as well as their approach to architecture. By revaluating Euro-American thought and action within a Japanese context Arakawa and Gins’s architecture introduces the open present as a spatial and sensible experience in itself. By building upon Japanese history, they not only overturn the concept of modern architecture by quite literally turning the world upside down, but more specifically introduce an architectural turn in the philosophy of life. Based on my onsite experience I cannot but confirm that Arakawa and Gins offer viable guidelines in how to die without dying. By extrapolating change and possibilities across 360 degrees, Arakawa and Gins confront us with an architectural life in which ‘nothing dies, because becoming new means continuing otherwise’.

Architectures of Life and Death

Driven by the Foucauldian attitude of subsuming architectural history into a genealogy of techne, Architectures of Life and Death advances a transdisciplinary approach rethinking subjectivity and exploring the political ramifications of these processes for the discipline of architecture and beyond. In contrast to mainstream approaches, architecture will not be seen as representative of culture, but as the mechanism of culture, the ‘collective equipment’ that rests on the reciprocal determination of social habits and technological habitats. In this sense, the idea that we shape our environments, therefore they shape us, is not to be taken as a metaphor. The animate has always been utterly dependent on the inanimate. A livable habitat is one which the inhabitant actively co-evolves with and which does not constitute a ready-made condition to which the inhabitant would simply have to passively adapt.

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