I don't know why, but this “thing” made me uneasy. I tried to strike up a conversation with it but got no response. I feared that if I inadvertently approached it I might be swallowed up by it.
Its three tails soar toward the sky. Its heartbeat and breathing, however quiet, can readily be heard. In fact, it seems more alive than some superficial human beings. Supposedly empty, it is pregnant with the smell of life. It looks as if the egg that was laid on the hilltop commanding a panoramic view of the town below has grown to its present size after repeatedly casting off its shell, and now the “thing” is again trying to nestle the giant egg to its breast.
Perhaps the uneasiness I felt when I saw the Tamana Observatory in Tamana, Kumamoto Prefecture, stemmed from my desire not to have my common sense trampled by the strange forms that seemed to be breathing, or by the violent throb of these forms clashing with each other. I felt the balance of my everyday life was disturbed, or rather confused. And because of this sense of insecurity ,I could not muster enough courage to directly approach the “thing.” I felt I might be dragged into some scary fantasy if I did.
The theme of this building-really three themes - unfolds through changing views on three levels. The ground level, named the “Earth Seat,” is devoted to communication between man and man. The middle level, the “Cloud Seat,” is for communication between nature and man and between different natures. And at the top sits the “Star Seat” symbolizing admiration for and an invocation of heaven. Central to all three levels is a spherical, egg-shaped emptiness dubbed “Zero Space.” Nestled within the building, it seems to symbolize the microcosm. Rings of various sizes supported by slender uprights create a feeling of unfettered movement, their size and number looking different depending on the direction from which one views them. This optical illusion demonstrates just how unreliable a human being's memory and sense of sight are.
“I created this building as a 'living environmental object,’ which contains the energy of nature,” says the building's designer. Whenever I stand on an observation point and gaze out over the view below without focusing on anything in particular, I am filled by something like a nihilistic sensation. It also resembles the unstructured feeling I have toward time after inadvertently dozing off. After all, the feeling I get when staring at a landscape from an observation point is nothing more than such a fuzzy sentiment. But the Tamana Observatory is different. Those who are positive enough to visit this spot are guaranteed many fresh viewpoints and stimulations. Even if you don't actually make it to the observatory, the magnificent acrobatics displayed by this “living environmental object” should provide you with many new outlooks. When lit tip at night, it looks like it might be transmitting instructions to the starry sky-as if acting as a guide to the workings of the entire universe.
Text by Hiroshi Innami 1993/10