The frantic pace of contemporary life, being connected all the time, active and “on top of things” all the time, has made us lose sight of the importance of taking the right amount of time for everything we do, leaving time for reflection and contemplation. A need that is felt everywhere and is now the theme of an exhibition at Architektur Galerie Berlin SATELLIT featuring the work of three architects. With different geographic origins and personal histories, architects Christoph Hesse (Germany), Robert Konieczny (Poland) and Snorre Stinessen (Norway) have given architectural form to a lifestyle dedicated to contemplation and reflection.
In his presentation of the exhibition, curator Ulrich Müller briefly discussed the term “contemplative life”, starting with ancient Greek philosophers Aristotle and Epicurus and going on to the meaning of the term in the Middle Ages, when the notion of “contemplative life” was amplified by religious philosphers and thinkers such as Benedetto da Norcia and Thomas Aquinas. The concept has come down to us with two important contemporary contributions: the essay Vita Activa(1) by German philosopher and writer Hannah Arendt and the words of Pope Francis, head of the Catholic church. In his 8 September 2016 speech to the congress of Benedictine abbots, the Pope recalled the validity today of the Benedictine rule of Ora et labora, to “help you to find the right balance between seeking the Absolute and commitment to your daily chores, between the peace of contemplation and the effort expended in work”.
Ulrich Müller then emphasised how, in the final analysis, our everyday actions, our active life, is just as important as the time we spend reflecting on it, the contemplative life.
The projects featured in the exhibition offer examples of the search for harmony in a common spirit, through individual methods and solutions, which are of course the fruit of the personal stories of each architect, of the clients and of the places where the constructions were built. They are all houses in small towns, constructions with deep roots in the local community, where the clients have consciously chosen to live in order to develop their ideas and creativity.
Atmosphere, material qualities and permanence are the key concepts Cristoph Hesse identifies in his constructions, presenting projects such as a tower house for a painter in Bromskirchen – Hessen and House F, designed for a farmer in Medebach, with an unusual round shape. All these projects share the presence of a setting that invites contemplation: a patio, a loggia, or a big window framing the landscape. They are all refuges of the spirit, where people can take back their own time, letting their eyes wander around their surroundings.
Robert Konieczny considers construction the most important aspect of his projects, based on a bold concept exemplified in the Ark project, a private residence overhanging a steep slope in Poland.
Snorre Stinessen believes it is important to allow intuition to play a part in the design process. On Manshausen Island in Steigen archipelago in northern Norway, he has designed a resort in harmony with the location and existing constructions. The residences provide privacy and offer guests the right amount of comfort while at the same time permitting a direct experience of the natural elements: the sea, the landscape and the changes following upon the alternation of the seasons.
Vita Activa in Hannah Arendt The Human Condition, University of Chicago Press 1958
Title: Christoph Hesse / Robert Konieczny / Snorre Stinessen
Date: July 6 – August 18, 2018
Location: Architektur Galerie Berlin, Germany
Images courtesy of Architektur Galerie Berlin
Photo by: Christoph Hesse, Jakub Certowicz, Steve King.