Shusaku Arakawa and his partner Madeline Gins were a husband-and-wife duo who created site-specific architectural constructions that served both a practical and artistic purpose. Going by the simplified name of Arakawa and Gins, the pair began collaborating in 1963 and later founded the Reversible Destiny Foundation, a sort of conceptual architectural firm that designed and built buildings with the intention of extended the human lifespan, ideally (though it was never achieved) to the point of immortality.
Madeline Gins, especially, looks like the classic image of the rock-star artist in this photograph. Yet even caught in a somewhat candid moment, the contents of the studio still make it clear how serious Arakawa and Gins were about their work. The wall behind the artists is plastered with highly detailed sketches and renderings of their Reversible Destiny housing designs, including a beautiful painting of the colorful exterior that looks almost exactly like the project came to look like in real life.
On the table in front of the artist, large, heavy books mingle with various mis-matched dishes and even what looks like a small wooden maquette of a building project. The studio overall is exactly what you’d expect from architecturally-minded artists (or, artistically-minded architects.) The space overall gives a clear impression of two artists who were extremely dedicated to a particular idea, almost to the point of obsession. The office-like appearance makes me think of Dan Flavin’s studio space as well.
Madeline Gins was a writer as well as an artist, and she and Arakawa published a number of books together, on top of earlier books that were written exclusively by Gins, drawing inspiration from her and Arakawa’s ideas. Arakawa passed away in 2010, with Gins following in 2014.