Give an architect a tunnel, and it becomes so much more than a hole in the earth. Some proof: MAD Architects’ recent work on the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel, a 2,500-foot pathway bored through the rock formations of Japan’s famous Kiyotsu Gorge.
MAD renovated the tunnel for the 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale art festival, turning it into a series of eye-catching lookouts and installations that are in and of themselves pieces of art. Each lookout is themed around a natural element—wood, metal, earth, fire, and water—and has a design to match.
Wood, for example, is a small cafe built from cedar wood that slopes upward into a circus tent-like tip. Inside, there’s a hot spring where visitors can soak their feet in preparation for their tunnel journey.
The fire lookout features round mirrors backlit by a fiery orange hue that create a molten drop-like pattern on the curved ceiling.
The journey ends with the water, or “Light Cave,” lookout, which has a shallow pool of water on the floor that reflects the outside view. MAD designed the spaces to celebrate Japan’s landscape, but we have to admit, the interior might rival the already spectacular natural views.