Tunnel of Light - MAD Architects
MAD Architects, based in Beijing, has achieved the restoration of the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel in Japan’s Niigata prefecture. The revitalization project contemplates the installation of several permanent artistic spaces along the historic lookout tunnel, to bring back the cultural energy that once empowered the region. The “Tunnel of Light” opened on the occasion of the 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale. This work won the Grand Award of DFA Awards 2019 organized by Hong Kong Design Center (HKDC).
Upon the strategy to the tunnel, a small wooden ‘hut’ has been put up 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. A circular hole – the “Periscope” – in the ceiling opens up towards the roof. Encompassed by mirrored lenses that reflect the nature of the surrounding site inwards, the subtle intrusion allows guests to relish the natural outside scenery. At the same time, they have a foot bath and relax within the warmth of the wooden interior.
“Expression of Color” (earth)
Lights of different colors are deployed at each observatory in the tunnel. By capturing the vibrancy of the space as a "colored expression" and combining it with mysterious music, it creates a subtle but dynamic environment and inspires the curiosity of the tunnel walkers to the unknown.
“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.
“The Drop” (fire)
"Drop" was scattered on the curved wall of the third observation deck. A "drop" is a series of reflective openings, as an uncertain window. It is projecting reality while reflecting the natural environment, bubbles that look surreal like molecules of water fall into the air from ceilings and walls and freeze in time. Looking into a convex mirror illuminated by a fiery red backlight, you can experience another connection to nature.
“Light Cave” (water)
At the end, a fantastic view of the “water mirror” that reverses the landscape of Kiyotsu Gorge awaits. Semi-mirror-finished stainless steel traces the tunnel, pulling rock formations, sparkling green eyes, and turquoise water from the earth into the enclosed space.