Death Defying – Not so Much

Bioscleave House
Bioscleave House, completed in 2008 in East Hampton, built to pre-empt death for its inhabitants. Eric Striffler

If you build a house for immortality it might be a bit inconvenient, even embarrassing, to eventually die. But Madeline Arakawa Gins, an architect, who with her husband, who was known simply as Arakawa, also an architect, built a house in East Hampton to pre-empt death for its inhabitants, left the mortal plane last week at age 72, according to an obituary in The New York Times. Mr. Arakawa predeceased her by four years.

Both Ms. Gins and Mr. Arakawa, a protégé of Marcel Duchamp, founded the Reversible Destiny Foundation in 1987, and “sought not merely better living — but, ideally, eternal living — through design,” according to The Times. A joint exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum SoHo was entitled, “Reversible Destiny: We Have Decided Not to Die.”

“Eluding death through design could be accomplished, the couple believed, through a literal architecture of instability — a built environment in which no surface is level, no corner true, no line plumb,” wrote Margalit Fox in Sunday’s Times.

Bioscleave House, a house they completed building in East Hampton in 2008 (work began in the '90s), and which cost $2 million to build, featured undulating floors so potentially treacherous that visitors were required to sign waivers before entering. “Its architecture makes people use their bodies in unexpected ways to maintain equilibrium, and that, she said, will stimulate their immune systems,” Ms. Gins was quoted as saying in The Times.  “It’s immoral that people have to die.”