Helen Keller revolutionized the way the world treated those with disabilities by first choosing to innovate her life. Learning to write and speak were monumental challenges that to anyone else may have seemed impossible, but to Keller, a little innovation and the willingness to approach new problems with new techniques made her life, and the lives of others, better. With the Reversible Destiny Lofts – In Memory of Helen Keller, Designers Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins push the boundaries of what can be considered art, as well as how living spaces function when merged with a vibrant artistic vision and creative users.
The colorful, asymmetrical units of the Reversible Destiny Lofts stand bright against the more uniform buildings surrounding their street in Tokyo, and their interior of the units vary similarly, depending on the space’s intended use. Larger lofts built to hold around 4 people have a more expansive, open design with smaller spaces integrated to be used by children. There are smaller “couples” spaces available for rent as well, which promise seclusion, and stunning views from the small loft balcony. For the rental fees, occupants get wifi, working bathrooms, a kitchen stocked with all the proper utensils, soap, towels – all of the amenities a guest might expect from a nice hotel.
All of this is fairly standard for any rented work space or living space. What makes the Reversible Destiny Lofts unique (aside from their rainbow painted outsides) is the interior’s refusal to be “walled in” by the usual standards of living space management. In the smaller units especially, the kitchen serves as the focal point for the main room and takes up quite a bit of space. As you can imagine, this leaves very little floor room for other standing furniture, like couches or sofas. There are several fixtures installed into the ceiling that are meant to support weight and these are one of the many playful ways the flat designers challenge residents to innovate their day-to-day lives. Residents like Shingo Suji opt to replace their bulky floor furniture with suspended hammock-type apparatuses. Other fixtures, like wind chimes, shelves, and organizers, can also be hung instead of placed, making the living space more dynamic.
The open nature of these enclosed spaces is also key in creating a flow through the house. A series of doors in one of the small couples apartment could leave an otherwise cheerful home feeling more like a series of small colorful boxes. Arakawa and Gins avoid this cramped feeling by doing away with doors and letting each space open naturally into the next.
This certainly doesn’t mean that privacy is unavailable. Smaller spaces, called “study rooms” are branched off from the main living space. On the street side, they’re fitted with windows to let in ample light, but there are outlets inside and enough room for a small table and a lamp if night studying is a possibility. While these spaces are intended for more quiet, studious work, some say that their children enjoy using the area as a hideaway for playtime away from the rest of the house.
So, what does a creative living space have to do with reversing your destiny? The information site puts it eloquently, saying “by inhabiting a space that does not allow you to think of it as something that is self-evident, you can realize that you can do things that at some point you thought were impossible.” The textured floor, ceiling mounts, ladders, poles, and open layout all insist that the user re-think how tasks are accomplished by making it difficult to continue setting the resident’s possessions exactly how they were in their previous homes. It’s simple enough to look at a kitchen counter and think it’s a good place to put your microwave, but there’s not a large precedent for how to make a hand ladder that goes from floor to ceiling “functional”- not unless the resident changes the way they think first.
For those visiting Tokyo who think they might like to tour the lofts, 90 public tours are available in Japanese with an advance reservation. For larger groups with a minimum of 10 people, private tours are available in both Japanese and English upon request. Prices hover around 32,400 JPY per group of 10, and an additional 2,700 JPY for each guest after.
Reversible Destiny Lofts MITAKA #101
2-2-8 Osawa Mitaka-shi Tokyo Japan 181-0015