Idol Chatter

The New York Times House & Home section yesterday took an oddly spiritual leap with a feature about a house they bill as “death-defying.” The house, being built for a mysterious set of owners in the Hamptons, on Long Island, is indeed worthy of a circus acrobat: the concrete floors are wildly uneven, climbing halfway to the ceiling in places, and rooms are suspended like those groovy egg-shaped hanging chairs from the ’70s. That not what they mean by death-defying, however.

The mental tricks the house plays on one’s equilibrium—the topsy-turvy architecture keeps you from finding a stable horizon—and the strenuous exercise required to move around the structure keeps the inhabitants young, according to its architects, Arakawa and Madeline Gins. In their language, the house “reverses destiny” by forcing its owners to revert to “a basic generative level of existence.” In other words, it makes you grow younger by keeping you constantly off-balance and unsettled.
Their assault on everyday comfort is not merely theoretical. Arakawa and Gins have designed old-age homes in Japan where the residents rave about the benefits of living in a physically challenging space. The Bioscleave House, as the architects call their new project, will also boost the immune system, they say, though the best experts will say is that their creations, which include multicolored walls and off-kilter electrical outlets, “make you happy.”
The medical validity of Arakawa and Gins’s philosophy is almost beside the point however. By challenging you to live in your body and in the moment at the same time—and you’ll be doing both when you have to skid on your keester down a bumpy concrete slope to get to the kitchen—the house offers as much insight in how to live spiritually as it does in, as the architects claim, “practice how not to die.”

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