When I stumbled on an image of these colourful Japanese loft apartments in Tokyo, my first thought was that they look like a stack of Liquorice All-sorts. It was only from further research that I discovered the external colour scheme is in fact the least extraordinary thing about them. The Reversible Destiny Lofts (MITAKA -In Memory of Helen Keller) sit on the outskirts of Tokyo and consist of nine apartments, painted in 14 different colours. They were completed in 2005 by architects/artists Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins, are the first residential units designed “to not to die.”
Arakawa and Gins both came from arts, rather than architectural backgrounds, but in their work together designed public spaces and residential buildings intended to challenge the human body, exploring its full potential and, hopefully, challenging the ageing process. Gins even stated that the central theme of their work was “how to reverse the downhill course of human life.” The lofts aim to do this through a number of radical ways, from the sensory-overload of their colour schemes both inside and out to the sloping ceilings and undulating floors, created to stop residents feeling too comfortable! The idea being that the body’s ability to adapt to new scenarios and even restrictions is part of what keeps us youthful.
With no interior doors, other than the front door, the apartments are intended to encourage communication, and have adaptability built in via ceiling hooks that can be hung with anything from utensils to furniture. Each apartment has even been designed so that wherever you look you will see at least six colours at once! The open-plan space is made intimate and cosy not just via colour, but by the incorporation of different pods (including a shower) which cocoon the user and throw up interesting acoustic and atmospheric pockets within the larger space.
Sadly, both Arakawa and Gins did not quite manage to live forever, but their legacy of imaginative architecture lives on, in both the lofts themselves and their Reversible Destiny Foundation, where you can find out much more about their work and theories. And if you fancy some accommodation that challenges rather than coddles you, you can even rent two of the lofts on short lets of just a few days, or take a guided tour.