Biotopological Scale-juggling Escalator
New York City
Reversible Destiny Foundation
The artists Madeline Gins and Shusaku Arakawa spent 40 years evolving an art practice that moved from conceptual and object-based work to projects that aim to “reinvent our species through works of procedural architecture.” Their architecture exists under a heading they called Reversible Destiny—which is also the name of the “practice” they founded in 2010, the Reversible Destiny Foundation. Like other artists who claim expertise in the field of architecture without ever having studied it formally, they came to designing from a wholly unique background. They claimed for their work new insights that have “never been addressed by architecture before,” and, not unlike many architects, were interested in the theoretical implications of their works. In order to achieve what they hoped would be a “dynamic architecture,” they worked with social scientists in experimental biology, phenomenology, and medicine, among other fields to create “lifespan extending projects.”
Their 2007 Bioscleave House (also called Lifespan Extending Villa) in East Hampton, New York, was an addition to an existing home that had sloping floors and walls that purposefully connected in unexpected ways in order to “map perception and diagrammatically display the set of tendencies and coordinating skills fundamental to human capability.” With architects increasingly interested in formal manipulation to find design solutions to issues like sustainability and social engagement, Reversible Destiny’s Lifespan projects were unique in wanting to expand human perception of daily life.
The work of Arakawa and Gins exists primarily in galleries and on private walls, but now there is a public space in New York City where one can engage with their architecture.
Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons commissioned Madeline Gins (Arakawa passed away in 2010 and Gins in 2014) to design a transition space in the Dover Street Market at 30th and Lexington Avenue. The installation, called Biotopological Scale-Juggling Escalator, is a multi-colored, biomorphically textured tunnel holding scale models of bedrooms and a bathroom. Its purpose is to encourage disengaged shoppers who are ambling from one floor to another to become more aware of their body and spirit in space, time, and culture.
The artists want users to rethink architecture and what it can do. With Biotopological Scale-Juggling Escalator they hope to trigger cognitive awareness that will help people age with grace and dignity. How can one argue with architecture of such ambition and hope? In fact this tunnel promises what the expensive clothes in the market promise, but deliver only as long as they are new.