The public discussion about art and architecture has lately been meandering around the question whether the Guggenheim museum should settle in Helsinki.
As an architect I naturally welcome new and interesting architecture into my hometown. However, a brand new building is not necessarily required to offer amazing experiences. The most impressive art experience I´ve ever had was in an old Japanese house in a small fishing village, on the island of Naoshima.
The paradise-like island is located in the Seto inland sea of Japan. Examples of fine modern architecture can be found on the island: Tadao Ando has designed buildings for the Chichu Art Museum and Bennese House Museum as well as high quality hotels surrounding them.
Naoshima is known for its collection of contemporary art, and in the museums a visitor can enjoy pieces by Andy Warhol, Bruce Nauman and Walter de Maria in an unique setting designed for them.
However, the Honmura Art House Project, which took me by surprise, is located in traditional Japanese houses in an old village. Some of the old buildings are converted into art spaces, but on the outside they remain just like the other village dwellings. The charm of a traditional Japanese town creates an atmosphere of something eternal, and the art compeltes the experience.
Besides organizing art exhibitions, the Art House Project preserves old buildings. In each location an artist and architect have been working together, to find the special character of the place and to transform the building into an art space.
“Backside of the Moon” by James Turrell in a setting by Tadao Ando is the piece which took my breath away.
You enter a room, which will be darkened compeltely. In the darkness you walk forward, trying to trust your insticts, and suddenly there it is, a light phenomena so totally capturing that it will take a moment to realise where you are. The sense of time and space disappear as you suddenly feel like on the edge of the world. Afterwards the real world outside feels different, for a while you are like under a spell.
That´s what art should do.