The formal proportions and elements of a classically designed church is given a modern, abstract intervention by minimalist architect John Pawson. Moritzkirche, otherwise known as St Mortiz Church has survived multiple traumas of fires, wars and even changes of religion in its nearly 1000 year history in Augsburg, Germany. The abstraction of the Baroque forms is intriguing because the shapes and proportions from the cupola domes to the windows, from the nave to the apse are familiar yet appear the experience is completely different without the decorative religious elements and color. As described by the project architect, Jan Hobel: The work has involved the meticulous paring away of selected elements of the church’s complex fabric and the relocation of certain artefacts to achieve a clearer visual field. The light that enters and reflects within the reinterpretation of this church evokes a pristine, uninterrupted atmosphere that it is inevitable to find the peace that one seeks in a church. Images by Gilbert McCarragher.
Completed in 2000, the simplistic beauty of Takashi Yamaguchi & Associates’ Glass Temple still stands unwavered. Located in Kyoto, Japan at foot of Mount Funayama where the hills are burnt to suggest souls entering paradise, this temple stands as a accompaniment to the existing Reigenko-jj, an imperial temple built by emperor Gomizuni-o in 1638. As a place of worship, the reaction to the site by Takashi Yamaguchi & Associates is one based on working with the flow of time. The architects sought to overlay our own time on the past in a way that would render it distinct. There is an overt and obvious appreciation for the sacred-ness of the site through the still-ness of the materiality and form. There is an obvious quiet-ness imposed also. Purposely sunken into the site, this Glass Temple represents a retreated respect to the existing temple, the site and its spiritual importance. The architects, when visiting the site, commented that they saw clearly how the building had lived and breathed within the flow of time from past to present. The emphasis then became to engage in a built outcome that would also breathe; have a sense of purity and embody an ethereal core. The...
The San Paolo Parish by Fuksas Architetto, completed in 2009, is a carefully articulated play with volumes. In concept, the main space is a box suspended within a box. It’s a play of intersecting regulated shapes, strategically placed, with emphasis on the void. The relief between volumes is therefore where the natural light enters the structure, allowing for shards of light to move through the spaces over time. Light enters both horizontally and vertically through the space. Emphasising the play with nature and built elements. Located in Foligno, Italy, the San Paolo Parish was initially conceived for a competition, which was won in 2001. The jury cited that the design was a sign of innovation that met the latest international research, becoming a symbol of rebirth for the city after the earthquake. Also therefore capturing the essence of what the spiritual and meditative space is intended to embody. This project features the use of pure geometries and natural day-lighting that create a spiritual connection with the heaven. Comprised predominantly of concrete, glass and metal, the series of regulated shapes that comprise the San Paolo Parish complex is beautiful. The lines are consistent, beautifully executed and each element is carefully curated....
Being listened to without being judged. This is the main purpose of the Kamppi Chapel of Silence, that has been recently opened in Helsinki, Finland. The curved wooden structure without windows serves as a refuge to the people who want to express their problems to the social workers in a calm and warm atmosphere, replacing the traditional social offices. The access to the chapel is through a glaze entrance and concrete corridor, and another great aspect to the inside of this build is the indirect toplight, illuminating the interior space. The chapel was developed by K2S Architects, also based in Helsinki. I really like the warmth and the feeling of being involved with the wood.
Hélène Binet is a renowned architectural photographer who has photographed the work of contemporary and historic designers. Her diverse portfolio includes work of leading architects such as Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid, Le Corbusier, and Alvar Aalto. I have chosen to highlight Binet’s portraits of Peter Zumthor’s Bruder Klaus Kapelle, a chapel in Mechernich, Germany. Binet’s incredible images of this structure stand out as a unique achievement among architectural photography. Zumthor’s buildings are a notorious challenge to capture on film. This is because his design theory is based on the phenomenological aspects of the space. Zumthor’s structures are designed to be enjoyed through full sensory experience. The look, feel, and even scent of the materials come together as one moves through the space. This results in a collage of sensory input that manifests as an overwhelming presence of building. How is one to capture this experience in a still image? Binet met Zumthor’s challenge with vigor. Magically, her work captures the very essence of the Bruder Klaus Kapelle. Through her images, the viewer has a sense of approaching, entering, and leaving the space. I am aware of the weight of the obelisk-like structure as if it loomed above me. I can...
This little chapel, recently finished by Kouichi Kimura Architects is located in a room of a larger building in Shiga, Japan. The aesthetic of the space is inspired by the words of the bible, specifically the passages dedicated the concept of light and darkness. Kouichi Kimura explains his vision: It goes without saying that the location and amount of light influence the expression of the symbolic light. Therefore, I decided that the only light coming into the place of worship would be from behind of the cross. Thanks to this lighting solution, the cross appears to be floating in the air. The white wall reflects the light and illuminates the space even further. And the sharp contrasting introduction of the black colour, enveloping the outer perimeter, accentuates the lightness of the central area. Photography by Takumi Ota
This beautiful piece of modern architecture was recently finished by Vicens + Ramos architect bureau. The church graces a new and largely undeveloped residential area in Cordoba, Spain. The building’s innovative structure is comprised of a single prism and a tall short facade. The facade is combined with the bell-tower and skylight – the components that are usually separated in historical church architecture. The prism, made from white concrete, has a fluted base able to let in horizontal light. The interior of the church is minimal and unembelished. It is designed to accentuate the focal points of the composition, namely the altar area and the roof paintings. The light, coming from the skylight and skillfully directed by the curved shape of the ceiling, completes and unifies the space. Photography courtesy of Vicens + Ramos
John Doe, the design studio created by Grégory Lacoua and Jean Sébastien Lagrange has hallmarked the new interior design of the Chapel of the Carmelites of the Assumption in Paris. The chapel was built in 1959 by Noël Lemaresquier (a disciple of Le Corbusier). While the architects of 3Box realised the architectural conversion of the building, John Doe Studio tackled liturgical furniture: pews, prie-dieu, altar, font, tabernacle and lectern, all together with a minimalist approach. So if you are in Paris, check it out yourself!
It’s as if John Pawson is trying to prove that monastic austerity is capable of brightening our spiritual needs—no surprise, considering that with the minimalist British architect, “Every architectural word tells.” A reductive design process that questions the necessity of every element in the desire to eliminate what is superfluous. This discretion in design is vital for a group of robed Cistercian monks, originally from France, who deliberately seeks seclusion. The restored Our Lady of Novy Dvur monastery, in the Czech Republic is their entire world—based on bare necessities and self denial. Mr. Pawson’s edgy poetry in the Our Lady of Novy Dvur monastery is evident. Everything is a shade of white. Spartan interiors with a dramatic stripped down elegance of modernism that reveals hidden sources of light. Concrete, plaster and wood; no stained glass; minimal comfort. This extraordinary serenity is rare. And we are glad that Cistercian monks do these things, so we don’t have to. Well, sort of. For those of Mr. Pawson’s fan club: The London Design Museum’s exhibition “John Pawson Plain Space,” will feature John Pawson’s work from September, 22 2010 to January, 30 2011.
The Dutch architecture agency Zecc loves minimalist churches and so do we. We have mentioned their chapel some time ago and again they did a great job with this converted church in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Since a few years this church is used as a showroom for antique furnishing, a conference room and a space for small concerts. Because of these functions a floor was inserted in the church. In the design of Zecc this inserted level is adjusted to emphasize the spatial qualities and sight lines of the church. Underneath this floor the bed room, study room en bath room are realized. To keep the façade of the church undamaged, no window frames are added to the façade, but the inside of the enormous church is seen as an exterior space. In this way internal patios in the inserted floors are realized to provide the underlying function with day light.
Dutch architecture agency Zecc transformed an old Catholic church in the Dutch city Utrecht into one spatial residence with a minimalist appearance. The character of the small church is maintained and where possible reinforced. It’s kept minimalist and given abstract shapes, by which it intensifies the contrast with the original soft shapes of the chapel. For extra daylight roof windows are added, through which diffused light enters the chapel. Some original furniture is re-used in the new atmosphere, like the church benches in the dining zone. Also the table is made out of church benches. This beautiful chapel has been nominated for the Dutch Design Award in 2008 and I can’t wait until it will be put on sale.
The Church of The Light was built in 1989, in the city of Ibaraki, Osaka. It was designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. What’s so interesting about this church, is how the architecture itself induces a spiritual experience. When you compare it to your regular Catholic church, or even Protestant church, the first feature you recognize is the profound emptiness of the interior. The only shiny bit is the huge cross of light; and it is so overwhelmingly large that you cannot help but experience a sense of smallness. Furthermore, the distinct void space and absolute quiet amount to a sense of serenity. For Ando, the emptiness is meant to invade the occupant, so there is room for the ‘spiritual’ to fill them. Photography by Liao Yusheng.