Elemental views: the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel

Look through a keyhole and you see another world. Hold a frame up the horizon and it’s suddenly a work of art. Look through a tunnel – like the newly restored Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel in Japan – and you can get an elemental new perspective on the world.

Restored by global architecture firm MAD for the 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale, the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel in Japan’s Niigata prefecture stretches 750m through the mountains along a gorge. The tunnel has been reimagined and restored to embody its connection with the natural elements: wood, earth, metal, fire and water. In Periscope (wood), the wooden ceiling of a hot spring foot spa creates a conical opening, rimmed by invisible mirrors, that allow you to see the scenery outdoors from down below. The stillness is palpable, and through the subtle trick of the mirrors sunny new vistas are opened despite your enclosure within.

Expression of Color (earth) is a long stretch of tunnel spiked with vibrant greens and oranges, crimson reds and voluptuous blue, like something from the artist Dan Flavin. Invisible Bubble (metal) is a space-age image right out of Stanley Kubrick, and The Drop (fire) features mirrors rimmed with fervent orange light, like holes burned straight through the structure. Each elemental point features lookout points that heighten, contrast and reimagine your personal view of the woods, snow, rock and water outside.

Perhaps the most impressive is the Light Cave. Upon entering the cave, both the shallow pool at your feet and the highly polished stainless steel walls draw the light and lush colours of the sky, rocks and foliage into the created environment. By transforming the exterior environment into pure light, it gives the feeling of being truly immersed in a sort of transcendental experience of nature.

If you’re in Japan, visit the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel. It might be just the right hole to give you a new look at life.

Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel