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MAD Architects, Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel

Five elements: Restoration of Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel by MAD Architects

In connection with this year's Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, the MAD architectural office has come up with five installations for Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel, located in the heart of Niigata Prefecture's mountainous landscape. Their artistic restoration of the 750-metre-long tunnel is oriented to wood, earth, metal, fire and water, the Five Elements of Nature in Taoistic teachings.
 
Outside the entrance to the tunnel the element of wood marks the starting point of the installations, and is expressed in the form of "Periscope", a wooden hut that features not only a foot spa but also a roof opening, encircled by mirrors that make it possible to see the surrounding landscape from within. Inside the tunnel proper, the focus turns to the element of earth, embodied with an installation that uses various light elements to highlight the texture of the building material used in the tunnel walls. The next installation, at Platform 2, is concerned with the element of metal, as represented by "Invisible Bubble", an installation of capsule-shaped elements clad in mirror glass. "The Drop" in the second-to-last part of the tunnel, consists of an installation of drop-shaped mirrors backed by red light and stands for the element of fire.
 
The highlight of the restoration effort undoubtedly consists of "Light Cave", a water installation in which shiny steel surfaces adapted perfectly to the morphology of the tunnel combine with a pool of water to reflect the surrounding rock formations in the deep mountain chasm
 
The installation by MAD Architects as part of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale is an endeavour to tackle Japan's socio-economic and demographic problems. Rural areas in particular are strongly affected by both ageing and the decline in population caused by the pull of the big cities. Since its premiere in 2000, the Triennale has been attempting to make the Tokamachi rural area around the Echigo-Tsumari region more attractive for visitors and locals alike with the help of temporary and permanent installations in the fields of architecture, design and art.

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