Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel in Japan’s Niigata prefecture has been transformed into several permanent artistic spaces with the intention of bringing young people back to the rural region.
Beijing-based architects MAD created the Tunnel of Light at the historic, 750-metre passageway that cuts through distinctive rock formations, offering panoramic views over one of Japan’s three great chasms, as part of the the 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale.
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.
Drawing on the “five elements” – wood, earth, metal, fire, water – MAD’s designs rethink the relationship between humans and nature, and seeks to reconnect locals and visitors alike with the majestic beauty of the land.
Representing wood, a small wooden ‘hut’ has been erected that serves as the café and 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.
The first installation (wood) is the Periscope, a small wooden hut that houses a cafe, shop and hot spring foot spa. Earth is represented by Expression of Color providing different coloured lighting at each lookout point in the tunnel.
Invisible Bubble representing metal features reflective and introspective capsule-like structure that only allows one-way views from the inside out. Meanwhile, The Drop at the second lookout point comprises mirrored “dew drops” attached to the ceiling and walls and back-lit by red light to identify with the fire elemental.
The Tunnel of Light culminates with the Light Cave representing the water elemental, where a shallow pool of water reflects the gorge and its surrounding area of natural beauty including distinct rock formations, lush greenery, and turquoise water in an “infinite illusion of nature”.
MAD said: “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.”
The Echigo-Tsumari region, while rich in nature, has slowly been suffering from an aging and decreasing population – as many of the young, rural people have moved to the big cities for work or education opportunities.
The transformation of the historic lookout tunnel was carried out with the intention of “bringing back the cultural energy that once empowered the region”.
Images: © MAD
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea