Taiji Miyasakas thirteen-foot mud sphere
Taiji Miyasaka's thirteen-foot mud sphere Jasmyne Keimig
As I stood by Taiji Miyasaka, an architecture professor at Washington State University, in front of a giant mud sphere that he's constructing with his team at MadArt Studio, the mud holding the structure together started to move. If you've ever seen a baby in the womb press its foot against its mother's belly, probing the boundaries of its world, that's what this movement looked like. It was alive. I gasped and jumped back a bit.

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Miyasaka assured me that this sphere was not alive, members of his crew were simply smearing more mud on the inside. The sphere is one of three in his show Circum∙ambience, that will officially open on February 24th. Until then, members of the public are invited to come by MadArt for their Open Studio sessions from Tuesday to Friday, 12 pm to 5 pm to see how the show comes together.

The way Miyasaka is approaching the space is by viewing it like an open field. "I was fascinated with sheds as an architectural prototype, but when I tried to locate them in the space, I always had to think about direction," he tells me. "Then I think about spheres, which is much more generic and people can walk around." He's also very cognizant of the way light enters the space, strategically placing each sphere either under a skylight or near the long panel of windows in the front of the gallery.

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MadArt Studio

When I got there earlier this afternoon, only one of the planned three spheres was fully finished. Composed of wooden planks that seemed to come from doors and dressers, Miyasaka referred to the structure as a "collage." The larger mud sphere was inspired by building techniques in Miyasaka's native Japan. “This is a traditional way of building Japanese houses and storage, and that’s still the case. It’s not [only] an ancient [way of] building,” he tells me, showing me pictures he took of these mud structures on a recent visit back to the country. "Mud construction is a universal technique."

In the next couple of weeks, Miyasaka will invite master Japanese plasterers to come into the space and plaster over all the mud and wood and hay, giving demonstrations on the traditional method of their application. Eventually, visitors will be able to climb inside the giant sphere, into a space padded by cushions that recalls a Japanese tea ceremony. Once inside, they will be greeted with almost complete blackness, save for a soft ring of light at the very top of the sphere.

In Miyasaka's previous work, he was more focused on the contrast between light and shadow. “Now I’m more interested in ambient light, like being surrounded by light," he tells me. "I'm trying to understand the nature of light more. Architects always talk about light and shadow, but we are always surrounded by light."

The opening reception for Circum∙ambience will be on February 24th from 1-3 pm. Until then, stop by to check in on the progress Miyasaka makes.

Earlier in the sphere construction process
Earlier in the sphere construction process MadArt Studio