We discovered a sequence of spaces in the the immediate surroundings of Church of Our Lady in Bruges. Outer spaces defined by walls filled with details and hidden potentials which intrigued us to their further investigation. All of those spaces appealed to us as separate rooms with strong connection through the enfilade of doors, gates and viewing axes. They are connected with it‘s common path we discovered and decided to follow and listen to all the whispering pointing towards us. Each room have it‘s unique atmosphere created by the specific key elements and details. After deeper examination the background narrative of the path of life came to surface. With our design we work with the emotion of each room in the straight connection to the path and enhacing the atmosphere through the language of architecture and architectural detail.
Initial idea of this intervention is based on the biblical story of Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Paradise. Space we create here symbolizes the state of preexistence. Place so flawless and perfect, it feels even inhuman. Alienated. It‘s space out of this world, too perfect for us to actually be able to spend a longer period of time so we need to leave and continue forward.
The sphere as the most perfect geometric shape in the universe. All the space bodies are formed like this. We as human beings are not suited for such a perfection. Precisely shaped spherical interior space carved out of white marble enhaces this perfection to such level, that it even causes discomfort. Empowered by the daylight coming through the circular opening on top causes loss of sense of direction. No edges or corners to hold on to. No fixed point letting you create the precise idea of space or it‘s dimensions.
Moment of Birth
The promise of space behind that wall that makes you wonder and raises questions. You want to enter that space, but you‘re not allowed yet. Dismantling couple of bricks could reveal something not yet known. This intrigueing desire does not leave a passenger calm.
Right after passing through the door you‘re drawn by that wall. The gable, the only trace left behind . Mass of bricks and mortar with a promise of pace behind it. Mysterious retreat defending you from the outter world. You need to dare that first step and climb through. You climb through the tunnel and reach the safe shelter. After a while you find a trapdoor beneath your feet leading to the cellar. After descending on a narrow ladder you discover resources allowing you to stay a bit longer. Wood, water and wine.
What seems to be the goal from the distance might turn out as a dead end after reaching it. While chasing you‘re dreams you might even forget, why you started running in the first place. When you come to an end without a closure, you should turn around and retihnik your next steps. Where are you heading?
The walls are raised and two gates are built. One gate leads you nowhere, the other one gets you to the other side. At the first glance one of the gates lures you in and than offers you no option to pass through. It‘s just a window, revealing you the absence of the bridge. You follow a wall on your way. A wall with the gaps big just enough to see and scrape through but small enough to walk pass them unnoticed. You might not even find a way out if you don‘t allow yourself to see.
You‘re facing the river. Preparing for that long step into the unknown. Reach out with your your foot to land onto something you have a clue about, yet you‘re not sure.
There is a bridge in the water. Just below the water level, to give you a hint of it‘s existence. You need to reach out with your feet and seek for the solid ground below. It is possible to pass that bridge, but you need to be aware of every single step you make. This bridge does not give you comfort, but it gets you to the other side. You just need to make an effort and start walking and see where it leads.
The final destination. Tunnel leading into the darkness down below. You walked a long way up to this point and you‘re about reach the end of your path. You‘ve been through struggle, but you can‘t just stop walking now. There‘s a certain mystery waiting in the darkness, too tempting to just let go.
The marble dome, burried beneath the ground, peeking out just with it‘s fragile fontanela facing the church. After crossing the bridge, you are facing a dark and narrow corridor. Just a dim light running down the dome and washing against the walls gives you the direction to follow. The large steps, descending in the ground guide you further on. It is necessary to sneak through the tight gap around the foundations to finally reach the space beneath the dome. It‘s too dark to actually see but the feel of foundations subtitute your eyesight. Do not let your touch mislead you, otherwise you‘ll never find closure. Revelation comes when you approach the space beneath the dome and behold the hint of the church projecting on the floor through the lense of the camera obscura and the Madonna exposed in this secret sanctuary.
Who influences you graphically?
I believe it is crucial to experiment and step out of your comfort zone with each individual project in order to find the best way to translate your proposal graphically.
In this particular project,we found inspiration in Giovanni Battista Piranessiand his mastership of capturing spatial qualities, depth and architectonic detail within one monochromatic section.
Another great part of influence came from the work of Russian artist Alexander Brodsky and his overwhelming drawings of utopian dreamy architecture with strong atmospherical qualities.
What defined the language of representation of the project? Did you ever think of developing a final metaphysical map of the path?
The whole scope of the Studio Anatomy taught by Jo Van Den Berghe and Mira Sanders was strongly focused on the architecturalsection as the most important document capturing the Depthof spaceas described in Jo Van Den Berghe’s manifesto as the most important and first dimension in architecture.
In our approach metaphysical goes hand in hand with the physical representation of the architecture and we aim to reinterpret the atmosphere of space and it’s qualities as we see it in our imagination.
How important was the initial moment of research, what role did the photograph play in capturing all these very specific moments and thresholds in between and of rooms?
Our mapping process of the immediate vicinities of the church through the media of photography and sketches was key to unravel the narrative of the urban room sequence. Both mediums serve to register and preserve your observations, yet both in a very different way. While photography for us serves as a mediatedprojection of reality with a highlevel of every detail necessary for later reality checks in the process of the design, a quick sketch reveal your healthy obsessions and points of highest importance and also greatly improves your overall understanding of the site.
Pencil also served us as a tool to capture the most important details alongthe path, which becamevery important elements inconstructing the narrative.
How do the sketches then sit in relation to the photographic material?
As I already suggested both photography and sketching is an indispensablepart of the research, but both play a different role. Even though it might seem that these two sometimes overlap or even double each other, it is not only about the outcome, but the process itself which makes you realize things you simply did not see at the first glance. Because the way you draw is also the way you think. That is why we walked this sequence of so-called“rooms” countless times and we also decided to make a footage of the walkthrough of the whole path.
What role does texture play withinthe images? What level and type of atmosphere was intended?
We wanted to achieve quite high level of detail in our drawings combined with spatial depth and atmosphere throughout the sequential path. By combining digital and hand drawing throughout the whole process we were able to combine the precision of a machine with the touch of architectural detail drawn by hand. We consciously left out the human element form from the drawings so it leaves space for imaginationof the individual and his interaction with the space. Scale in the drawings is represented through materiality such as brickwork.
How did case studies as those of Pier Vittorio, Tadao amongst others weave their way into shaping the project? What is your take on the architectural continuum?
As well as it is shaped by people, architecture also shapes us. Even though political, social, economicalor environmental background changes during the years to the unrecognizable, the emotional role of architecture stands still, carved into stone and stimulates the same feeling in us as it was in the people decades or hundreds of years ago. Because of that,we refer inour work to what is relevant to us and our way of thinking even though some of the references we used are more than a hundred years apart. That is why architecture is so rich,because it is not an exact science where one usually only relates to the most recent work that has been proved to be right. There is no right in architecture.
Could you define what for you is an ‘urban room’? What lead you to use this term?
Already after the first observations,this quite strong narrative surfaced in our conservation. It was not only for the rather enclosed environment surrounded by walls and the emergence of the spatial enfilade but also the behavioral patterns of itsvisitors. This slow mobility and quite apious atmosphere werevery present throughout the whole spatial sequence of the path. The “Room” was the term we used to unite our observations of the sequence with itsunique character and with this kept in mind later we were able to further develop it into the narrative of the path.
How important was the element of narrative in developing and building the project?
The narrative served us as a backbone throughout the whole design process but it also represented a constant threat tous. While working with such strong narrative as the path of life it’s hard not to slip to superficiality and over subjectivity of the matter. Our process consisted a lot of discussionsas well, about how we as human beings perceive, as ordinary and yet so precious thingas a life is, and how it can be translated to the language of architecture.