‘Tunnel Of Light’ is the recently completed art installation at the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel in Japan, by Beijing-based firm MAD Architects. The 750 meter surveillance tunnel was transformed into an art space with five installations that draw upon the elements of nature: water, fire, earth, metal, and wood.
The architects revamped the old tunnel as part of the Echigo-Tsumari Triennale 2018. The festival sees approximately 160 artworks created across many villages in the rural Niigata Prefecture. The site location for the immersive artwork is inside the gorge tunnel itself. The mouth of the tunnel offers panoramic views of the surrounding V-shaped valleys, that are formed by hardened lava rock formations.
The intention of the architects was to reinvigorate the cultural energy of the region by exploring the relationship between humans and nature in a semi-abandoned area with an elderly population. The five tunnel installations are as follows: ‘Light Cave’, celebrating water, is a shallow pool of water ripples across the ground, casting reflections of the surrounding landscape from the cave’s semi-polished stainless steel walls, creating an infinite illusion of nature. ‘The Drop’, which represents fire, showcases a set of convex mirrors with fiery orange backlight. ‘Expression Of Color’, symbolizing earth, is a passageway at the entrance of the tunnel illuminated by multiple colored lights and ambient music. ‘Invisible Bubble’, representing metal, is an installation at the first lookout point in the tunnel, featuring a capsule-like structure with a public bathroom. The viewpoint is covered in a metallic film that allows views from inside the toilet, but not out. Lastly, ‘Periscope’ which represents wood, is a wooden hut that comprises a cafe, shop, and onsen foot spa.
Led by studio principal Ma Yansong and architect Yosuke Hayano, MAD Architects explain that the five pieces, “Seek to re-connect locals and visitors alike with the majestic beauty of the land.” The essence of the exhibition, they continue, “brings both a lightness and stillness into the once dark, dewy tunnel, invoking a feeling of everlasting solitude”.