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MAD Restores the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel with Artistic Spaces for the 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale


MAD Architects has completed the restoration of the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel in Japan’s Niigata prefecture. The revitalization project sees the installation of several permanent artistic spaces along the historic lookout tunnel, with the intention of bringing back the cultural energy that once empowered the region. The “Tunnel of Light” opened on the occasion of the 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale.


Design Team: Ma Yansong, Yosuke Hayano, Dang Qun, Hiroki Fujino, Kazushi Miyamoto, Yuki Ishigami Executive Architect: Green sigma Co., Ltd.

Located in the heart of Japan’s snow country, Echigo-Tsumari is home to mountainous terrain and a satoyama which is an agricultural expanse, where traditional ways of farming are still being practiced. While rich in nature, the region has slowly been suffering from an aging and decreasing population – a serious phenomenon that has seen many of the young, rural people moving to the big cities for work or education opportunities. This has left the elderly (65+ years) accounting for 37% of the community, while the average level in Japan is 27.7%.


As part of the 2018 program, MAD Architects was invited to revitalize the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel – a historic, 750-meter passageway that cuts through distinctive rock formations, offering panoramic views over one of Japan’s three great chasms.

Drawing on the ‘five elements’ of nature (wood, earth, metal, fire, water), MAD’s scheme transforms points along the historic tunnel through the realization of several architectural spaces and artistic atmospheres. The designs rethink the relationship between humans and nature, and seek to re-connect locals and visitors alike with the majestic beauty of the land.