日本語

ENOURA OBSERVATORY

 

Throughout human history, art has embodied the pinnacle of our mental and spiritual evolution. When we first became self-aware beings, art commemorated this awakening in cave paintings. Later, art went on to manifest the forms of the divine, and splendidly symbolize the might of kings. Today, as we stand at a critical point in our evolution, art has lost its onetime clarity of purpose.  What should art today express? We cannot answer this question simply, but what we can do is return to the wellspring of human consciousness, explore its sources, and chart the course it has followed thus far.  This is the mission the Odawara Art Foundation has in mind when we designed Enoura Observatory.

At the dawn of history, when the ancients first gained self-awareness, their first step was to search for and identify the place they occupied within the vastness of the starry firmament.  This search for meaning and identity was also the primal force behind art.  The winter solstice, when new life is reborn; the summer solstice, when the great pendulum of the seasons swings back again; the spring and autumn equinoxes, milesones at the midpoint between extremes.  I believe that if we trun once more to our ancient observation of the heavens, we will find glimmers that point the way to our future.

 

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Optical Glass Stage with Amphitheater Seating

 

Paved with optical glass, the stage sits on a kakezukuri framework of Hinoki cypress.  Parallel to the tunnel, it is aligned with the axis of the winter solstice.  The best-known example of kakezukuri are probably Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto and the Monjudo hall on Mount Mitoku in Tottori.  On the morning of the winter solstice, the optical glass stage glows as it catches the light on its cut edges.  The auditorium is a full-size recreation of a ruiined Roman amphitheater in Ferento in the Lazio region of Italy.  To the audience, the glass stage appears to be floating on the surface of the sea.

 

Summer Solstice Light-Worship 100-Meter Gallery

 

One hundred meters above sea level stands this gallery which is itself one hundred meters in length.  The hundred-meter long structural wall is covered in Oya stone with its distinctive peeling, speckled skin.  The opposing wall is made of glass windows - 37 large panes side by side with no support - for a completely column-free space.  The cantilevered roof is specially engineered for lightness and the last twelve meters of the gallery jut out toward the sea, doubling up as a viewing platform.  On the morning of the summer solstice, the sun's rays rise from the sea and take several minutes to make their way down the full length of this space.

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Winter Solstice Light-Worship Tunnel / Light Well

 

The winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight of the entire year.  It also marks the end of one year and the start of another.  Ancient cultures around the world celebrated the winter solstice as a turning point in the cycle of death and rebirth.  Developing an awareness of how the sun rises and the seasons change was one trigger for humankind's acquiring of consciousness.  My goal in making this complex was to reconnect people, visually and mentally, with the oldest of human memories.  On Sagami Bay, sending its light through the 70-meter tunnel to illuminate a large stone at the other end.

An aperture has been built into the tunnel to admit light.  Beneath the aperture is a well. The chisel marks on it suggest that it dates from medieval times.  The bottom of the well is covered with pieces of optical glass  You can enjoy the sight of the individual raindrops as they fall into the well when it rains.

 
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Stone Stage

 

The origins of performing arts in Japan go back to the ancient legend of Ama-no-uzume ( the dawn goddess) danced in order to lure forth Ameterasu-omikami (the sun goddess) who was hiding in a cave.  This episode is recreated in a votive dance that is still performed on a grass-covered stage during the On-Matsuri festival at the Kasuga-taisha shrine in Nara, when the divine spirits cross from the Kasuga Wakamiya-jinja shrine at night. (The Japanese word for theatrical performance - shibai - is supposed to have its origins in the word shiba meaning "grass")

The design of the stone stage is baed on the dimensions of a Noh stage. It is constructed mainly out of the many rocks dug up when the site was being prepared for development.  Just a few meters below the surface here is hard bedrock, while the Nebukawa and Komatsu stone quarries are located nearby.  At the each of the stage's four corners are large stones which were dug up from the nearby Hayakawa Quarry and were originally destined for the walls of Edo Castle.  From the chisel marks on them, they appear to have been quarried in the early years of the Edo period (1603-1868) and then abandoned.  For the hashigakari, or bridgeway, leading to the stage, a single 23-ton stone slab is used.  It is a piece of Takine stone that I came across by chance in Kawauchi in Fukushima prefecture while scouring Japan for rocks and stones.

The axis of the stone bridgeway aligns with the axis of the sun as it rises from Sagami Bay at the spring and autumn equinoxes.  My conception was for the Noh plays to start just before dawn as the murk of night is giving way to daylight and for the principal actors of the second part of the play to return to the underworld as the sun rises directly behind the stage.

 

Uchōten ("listen-to-the-Rain") Tea House / 
Stone Torii Gate

 

The Japanese word honkadori refers to the practice of using a quotation from a classic old poem as the starting point for creating a new work of art.  The Uchōten tea house is a quotation-and-reinterpretation of the Taian tea house, thought to have been designed by Sen no Rikyû. Taian is regarded as a perfect expression of the simple, modest style of tea ceremony (wabi-cha) favored by Rikyû.  Light comes through exposed wattle windows into a tiny two tatami-mat room to creat an extraordinary space out of the shadows.  Whatever wood was most easily available was used, rather than anything rare and precious, while the walls were of cheap mud plaster.  Rickû deliberately recreated the sacred "simplicity" of seclusion deep within the mountains.  I copied the dimension of th e Taian tea house without the slightest deviation.

Tenshoan, another tea house attributed to Rikyû, once stood here in Enoura, the home of the Odawara Art Foundation.  When Toyotomi Hideyoshi laid siege to Odawara Castle in 1590 as part of his campaign to eliminate the Hōjō clan, he is supposed to have ordered Rikyû to build tea house to boost the morale of his generals.  That was just one year before Sen no Rikyû committed suicide.  I decided to incorporate this local memory into the thea house.  With great care, we removed the rusty corrugated iron roof from a local stone barn for storing tangerines to use as the tea house roof.  If Rikyû were alive now, a rusty piece of corrugated iron strikes me as precisely the kind of material he would use.  When it rains, you can hear the raindrops falling from the heavens and drumming on the iron roof:  hence the teahouse's name of U-chō-ten ("rain-listen-heaven").  At dawn on the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun shines through the nijiriguchi crawl door.  The step of optical glass in front of the crawl door also glows when it catches the sunlight on its cut edges.

Stone Torii Gate was assembled to resemble a stone torii gate in Odachi in Yamagata which is designated an important culture property because it is an example of old-style torii design.  The wedge marks on it suggest the pre-medieval period.  An old stone sarcophagus lid is used as the stepping stone directly under the gate.  The sarcophagus lid probably broke in ancient times.

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Triangular Mound

The tip of this stage points toward the sun at midday on the spring and autumn equinoxes.  The meridian is the great circle running from pole to pole, forming a line that joins the north ("the direction of the rat") to the south ("direction of the horse"). The stage was built by heaping up Nebukawa stones.  Since it reminded me of the stone chambers found in old burial mounds, I place some stones and a fragment of a stone sarcophagus from an ancient tomb inside it.




 

 - Hiroshi Sugimoto