Uncertain Fate

Madeline Gins and Arakawa’s surreal Lifespan Extending Villa faces wrecking ball

Architecture East Interiors Preservation
The Bioscleaves House (Lifespan Extending Villa), designed by Arakawa and Madeline Gins, is for sale in East Hampton, New York, for $2.495 million. (Brown Harris Stevens)
The Bioscleaves House (Lifespan Extending Villa), designed by Arakawa and Madeline Gins, is for sale in East Hampton, New York, for $2.495 million. (Brown Harris Stevens)

The Bioscleave House, or Lifespan Extending Villa, was designed by the late Japanese architect Arakawa and his late wife, artist Madeline Gins, in their quest to develop an architecture that could reverse the effects of aging and ward off death. The experimental home is located in East Hampton, New York, and is currently listed for sale for $2,495,000.

Although the four-bedroom structure appears to be a work of International Style modernism that has been subjected to a riotous 52-color paint job, it was actually designed in accordance with the couple’s own theory of aging and design, which they called Reversible Destiny. Like many of the home’s unusual features, the bold color-blocking, in keeping with their theory, is intended to keep occupants mentally stimulated.

Bioscleaves House

The kitchen and living room of the Bioscleave House (Brown Harris Stevens)

The interior, which guests must sign a waiver before entering, is an architectural obstacle course that transforms daily life into a perpetual workout. The rammed earth flooring is undulating and bumpy, challenging occupants to constantly watch their footing as they navigate between brightly colored metal poles. Every element, from the awkwardly positioned light switches to the precariously sunken kitchen, was designed to heighten body awareness and discourage complacency.

Arakawa and Gins were protégés of the avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp. They were commissioned to build the house in the late 1990s by art collector Angela Gallmann, but it was not completed until 2007 when the property was purchased by Professor Group LLC, an anonymously owned corporation. It was the couple’s first built work in the United States and the only to be completed while both were living—Arakawa passed away in 2010 and Gins four years later.

Bioscleaves House

The bathroom of the Bioscleave House (Brown Harris Stevens)

Jose B. DosSantos, the home’s listing agent, has been searching for a buyer who appreciates its unconventional style. “I’ve been working hard to save it,” he told The Architect’s Newspaper. “I have contacted art dealers, I have been in touch with the Japanese government, I even had an actress from abroad who wanted to buy the house and have architecture students from around the world come there to do a residency, to learn from masters like Arakawa and Gins, but she backed out at the last minute.”

If purchased by a developer, DosSantos says, the Bioscleave House will most likely be demolished and replaced with a typical 5,000-square-foot spec house, which would sell for three or four million dollars in the current market.

The Reversible Destiny Foundation, a nonprofit organization tasked with preserving the work of Arakawa and Gins, declined to comment on the matter.

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