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The Bioscleave House, designed by Arakawa and Gins, is a unique home built on the concept of “reversible destiny” and the idea that death is not inevitable. The architects believe that by challenging and changing our perceptions, we can reinvent ourselves as immortal beings. The Bioscleave House forces occupants to interact with their surroundings in a different way, with features that are not typically found in a comfortable home. The house is designed to keep occupants on their toes, as comfortable complacency could lead to death. Although the house is not comfortable, it is believed that living in it will prevent death. The Bioscleave House was originally commissioned as a small add-on to an existing home in East Hampton, NY, but ended up costing over $2 million to build.

The house that costs $2 million may offer more than just immortality. At first glance, the exterior and interior appear to need a lot of paint as they are splashed with about 40 vibrant colors with names such as tricycle red, pink popsicle, and traffic light green. The house includes a kitchen, a bathroom, two bedrooms, and a study. However, the kitchen is sunken in the center of the house, and the other rooms lack traditional comforts, such as doors or outlets in convenient locations. The windows in the house are at unconventional heights, which makes it difficult to establish where the horizon is. Arakawa and Gins, the designers of the house, believe that losing balance and using your body in surprising ways to maintain equilibrium will stimulate the immune system, which will eventually stop aging and death. They claim that changing your idea of how architecture should work could change your ideas about how life should work. The house remains unoccupied as of April 2008, and it is unknown what the financiers of the project have planned. Scientists typically study how science and computers can help prolong life, but Arakawa and Gins argue that the complacency and familiarity inherent in being a couch potato is the bigger risk. They believe that the architecture we inhabit shapes us, and they have developed unique architecture that can have a better effect on our lives.

Arakawa believed that Helen Keller was the perfect embodiment of art, as she had to constantly re-evaluate the world due to her blindness and deafness. Arakawa and Gins aim to create a similar blank slate for the occupants of their residences, where no pre-existing thoughts fill the space, preventing one from feeling the need to die. By forcing individuals to be a part of their surroundings, the pair sees the person and their surroundings as a whole, referred to as the architectural body. The Bioscleave House is designed to stimulate the immune system and challenge traditional notions of a house, ultimately changing the individual’s perception of reality. Although some may question the effectiveness of Arakawa and Gins’ work, their website reminds us that it was once thought impossible for humans to fly, and architecture solved that problem through airplane design. While the disorienting effects of the house may eventually become familiar, the potential for reversible destiny projects remains to be seen.

Other Projects with Reversible Destiny

Another image of the kitchen in the Bioscleave House
Photo Credit: Margot List/Arakawa + Gins

The Bioscleave House is not the first project aimed at changing your destiny. In 1995, Arakawa and Gins built the “Site of Reversible Destiny,” a kind of theme park in Japan. The park is a maze designed to make you feel off-balance, with the guide encouraging you to enjoy it. You can even borrow a helmet at the entrance to protect yourself from the falls and injuries that may happen while navigating the steep and winding paths [source: Howard]. Despite the frequent falls and occasional broken bones, it is a popular tourist spot [sources: Bernstein, Newsweek].

In 1997, the Guggenheim Museum SoHo hosted an exhibition of Arakawa and Gins’s work. The first section of the exhibition was an early collection of paintings called “The Mechanism of Meaning.” The paintings are like little puzzles, with instructions like “Think One Say Two” [source: Smith]. The paintings offer a glimpse into how Arakawa and Gins might have tried to stimulate our brains, change our perception, and challenge our thinking about what constitutes art if they hadn’t turned to architecture.

The second section of the exhibition, “Reversible Destiny Architecture,” was the first time the United States had seen this type of housing. One example was the Critical Resemblances House, which was built as part of the Japanese park. In the accompanying text, Arakawa and Gins were thrilled that “it could take hours to get from the living room to the kitchen” and “it might take several days to find all the places where the dining room is located” [sources: Smith, Kawash].

Looking back at the exhibition, one critic wrote that it was impossible to imagine what it would be like to live in such an environment. In 2007, Arakawa and Gins built a housing project to answer this question. The Reversible Destiny Lofts are located in a Tokyo suburb and consist of nine apartment units. The apartments have many of the same features as the Bioscleave House, including a sunken kitchen and an uneven floor. One glass door is so small that you have to crawl out of it.

Despite this, the entire project met building codes, and people have been paying $763,000 to live there, even though a regular apartment in the same neighborhood costs half as much [source: Newsweek]. Some interested parties reported that the price might be high for an apartment but low for a work of art [source: Knight Ridder]. Each loft comes with a set of instructions, and living in one is supposed to help reframe what is possible. Arakawa claims that elderly residents of the apartment have thanked him, saying that in just three or four months, they feel much healthier [source: Bernstein]. The apartments can also be pre-assembled, so similar sites could be exported around the world.

If you are interested in homes and death, do not turn to the next page to reverse your destiny.


What is the next project for reversible destiny?

When you have refused to die, you have a lot of time to work, so Arakawa and Gins are preparing for even larger reversible destiny projects. On their website, the duo presents plans for Hotel Reversible Destiny – you may never leave once you get a glimpse of how your life could be better. Arakawa and Gins call the project an “evolution accelerator”; by accelerating evolution, we will reach a point where we accept that life does not end.

The website features blueprints for the “Museum of Living Bodies,” which is a whole city that will function as a reversible destiny laboratory. The area includes dwellings, green spaces, dining establishments, lodgings, and a college.

To learn more, click the “Read More” button.

Additional information can be found under “Lots More Information,” including related articles from HowStuffWorks, such as “How Your Immune System Works” and “Can you die of boredom?” The section also includes links to the Architectural Body Research Foundation, the Site of Reversible Destiny, and the National Institute on Aging.

Lastly, the website cites various sources, such as the New York Times, Newsweek, and NPR, that discuss the work of Arakawa and Gins and their design philosophy.


1. What is the Bioscleave House?

The Bioscleave House is a unique architectural project designed to enhance the well-being of its inhabitants through the use of color, light, and spatial complexity. It was created by artists Madeline Gins and Arakawa to promote longevity and vitality by challenging the body and mind.

2. How does the Bioscleave House promote health and wellness?

The Bioscleave House is designed to challenge the body and mind, encouraging physical and mental activity. It features a complex layout with irregularly shaped rooms and unexpected changes in elevation. The use of color and light is also a key element, with different colors used to create distinct moods and energy levels throughout the house. The goal is to create an environment that engages the senses and encourages movement, ultimately promoting health and wellness.

3. What is the philosophy behind the Bioscleave House?

The philosophy behind the Bioscleave House is based on the idea of “reversible destiny.” This is the belief that the human body and mind are capable of adapting and changing in response to their environment. The house is designed to challenge inhabitants in unexpected ways, forcing them to think and move in new and different ways. By doing so, it is believed that the house can help promote longevity and vitality.

4. Who can benefit from living in the Bioscleave House?

Anyone can potentially benefit from living in the Bioscleave House, but it may be particularly helpful for individuals who are looking to improve their physical or mental health. The house is designed to promote movement and engagement, which can be beneficial for people who are looking to increase their physical activity levels or improve their cognitive function.

5. Is the Bioscleave House accessible to people with disabilities?

The Bioscleave House is not fully accessible to people with disabilities. The house features multiple levels and irregularly shaped rooms, which may make it difficult for people with mobility impairments to navigate. However, the house can still be enjoyed by people with disabilities, as long as they are able to navigate the space safely.

6. Can visitors experience the Bioscleave House?

Yes, visitors can experience the Bioscleave House by scheduling a tour. The house is open for tours on a limited basis, and visitors are encouraged to make reservations in advance. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore the house and experience its unique design and features.

7. Is the Bioscleave House a successful project?

The success of the Bioscleave House is subjective and depends on how one defines success. From a design perspective, it is considered a successful project due to its unique and innovative design. From a health and wellness perspective, it is more difficult to measure success, as there is limited research on the effectiveness of the house’s design in promoting longevity and vitality. However, many inhabitants and visitors have reported positive experiences in the house, suggesting that it may be a successful project in terms of promoting well-being through design.

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