Precedents.

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Monumental Warmth

 Architects who consider atmosphere in their work tend to describe it in relation to one of the following three categories: emotive, physiological, and psychological. Designed atmosphere is greater than the sum of its parts. There is no formula that generates atmosphere, but there are recommended ingredients. Even a well-considered initial vision cannot predict all the qualities the final atmosphere will possess. Consideration, craft, and intention leave their mark, and create an environment. The final atmosphere is always partially resultant because its perception is influenced by personal factors. Nostalgia, memory, and anticipation play an important role in the way we perceive. However, the atmosphere of a space is also dependent on its environment and its details.

Emotive atmosphere in architecture attempts to create an immersive, multi-sensory experience. It does not need to be understood to be effecting. Spaces under this category strive to evoke a sense of awareness. Architects practicing under this philosophy craft spaces which are tactile, solid, and whose details bear close inspection. Emotive atmosphere emphasizes sensory immersion. The greater the number of senses engaged, generally the more moving the experience. Emotive architectural atmosphere has been explored in the works of Peter Zumthor and Kengo Kuma, and in phenomenology, especially as described by Steven Holl and by Juhanni Pallasmaa. The works of these architects are significant in their hyper-specificity and in their intentionality. The details, character, and spaces in these buildings are custom to each project, resulting in unique atmospheric qualities. Because few elements within these buildings can be found in other projects, visitors and inhabitants cannot rely on muscle memory. They must pay attention to the surfaces and spaces with which they are interacting in order to orient themselves.

Categories

research, sacred, spiritual, masterplan, materiality, history, architecture

Location

Copenhagen, Denmark

Function

Memorial, Danish Church

Date

Summer 2019

Full Text

Sacred Space

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Approach

The church terminates a lengthy procession and is flanked by structures in the same language.

" Every touching experience of architecture is multi-sensory; qualities of matter, space and scale are measured equally by the eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue, skeleton, and muscle. "    — Juhanni Pallasmaa⁴

Crafted Sensation

 

Emotive atmosphere in architecture attempts to create an immersive, multi-sensory experience. It does not need to be understood to be effecting. Spaces under this category strive to evoke a sense of awareness. Architects practicing under this philosophy craft spaces which are tactile, solid, and whose details bear close inspection. Emotive atmosphere emphasizes sensory immersion. The greater the number of senses engaged, generally the more moving the experience. Emotive architectural atmosphere has been explored in the works of Peter Zumthor and Kengo Kuma, and in phenomenology, especially as described by Steven Holl and by Juhanni Pallasmaa. The works of these architects are significant in their hyper-specificity and in their intentionality. The details, character, and spaces in these buildings are custom to each project, resulting in unique atmospheric qualities. Because few elements within these buildings can be found in other projects, visitors and inhabitants cannot rely on muscle memory. They must pay attention to the surfaces and spaces which they are interacting with in order to orient themselves.

Approach

The church terminates a lengthy procession and is flanked by structures in the same language.

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Sambuichi.jpg

Crafted Sensation

 

Emotive atmosphere in architecture attempts to create an immersive, multi-sensory experience. It does not need to be understood to be effecting. Spaces under this category strive to evoke a sense of awareness. Architects practicing under this philosophy craft spaces which are tactile, solid, and whose details bear close inspection. Emotive atmosphere emphasizes sensory immersion. The greater the number of senses engaged, generally the more moving the experience. Emotive architectural atmosphere has been explored in the works of Peter Zumthor and Kengo Kuma, and in phenomenology, especially as described by Steven Holl and by Juhanni Pallasmaa. The works of these architects are significant in their hyper-specificity and in their intentionality. The details, character, and spaces in these buildings are custom to each project, resulting in unique atmospheric qualities. Because few elements within these buildings can be found in other projects, visitors and inhabitants cannot rely on muscle memory. They must pay attention to the surfaces and spaces which they are interacting with in order to orient themselves.

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Gothic Ghost

The rounded arches, small building units, and warm tone offer a softer take on the gothic form.

Intentional Interventions

 

Despite its massive scale, the minimal ornamentation in Grundvtig’s Church lends it spatial clarity and depth. The moving power of Grundtvig’s Church lies in both its formal and material simplicity. Interventions take two primary forms: deft variations and patterns within the brick, and the sparse use of secondary materials and essential objects. The few standalone pieces include the stone baptismal font, which was also designed by P. V. Jensen-Klint, the organs, the roof, the geometrically patterned sets of wooden doors, and various custom metal furnishings. The tremendous variation in the brick is dissolved in the monochrome sea of identical pieces. Only after prolonged viewing do exceptions begin to reveal themselves. Unique moves are most visible in the spiral stairs, the places where arches meet, and the pulpits. The composition of millions of small brush scratches prevents light from reflecting off of the bricks in the interior, resulting in the impression of light being absorbed. The brick surface appears deep and thick rather than a mere surface. This helps to soften the reverberating echoes. Grundtvig’s Church employs humble material and hand craft on a tremendous scale. Exact drawings were produced showing each brick.

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“Finally there is a work that is destined to stand for centuries, a poem in lime and brick that will touch hearts and attract admiring eyes to itself generation after generation.”    — Jeppe Aakjær⁴

Material Palette

Over six million matching, locally produced bricks come together to form the interior, exterior, and ground plane.

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Marks of Craft

Detail of scratches on the interior bricks, the result of careful sanding.

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Texture and Tone

 

Grundtvig’s Church epitomizes the intimate attention to detail typical of Scandinavian architecture. The omnipresence of brick as a base unit of design is culturally characteristic of Denmark, but both Saint Peter and Grundtvig’s Church push Danish brickwork to unprecedented places. Where Lewerentz intentionally worked with the humblest, roughest bricks he could find, Klint demanded uniformity, quality, and precision across a tremendous scale. The result is as impressive and overwhelming as Saint Peter is humble and haunting. The burnt surfaces of the bricks were sanded by hand, to give the space softer acoustics. The surface of every brick was hand-polished to geometric perfection by a craftsman before it was placed. 

Ink and Paper

On-site documentation of Grundtvig's Church took the form of photography, mapping, and sketches.

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Marching Uniformity

The repetition of the humble units defines the composition of Grundtvig's Church.

Labor of Love

Bricks were laid with both pride and precision by a team of master masons who worked for decades.

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Sacred Form

Identical bricks blend into a warm and monolithic mass.

Concluding Thoughts

 

Grundtvig’s church combines the formal strength of traditional Gothic cathedral architecture with the craftsmanship and humility of Danish design. The result is a beautiful contradiction, a space both austere and welcoming, sparse in furnishings but rich in texture. Klint crafted an ethereal void... monumental, warm, reverent, and timeless. Most buildings today have a limited capacity to engage their occupants beyond their base program and function. Expectations can shape experience, particularly when they are defied. Buildings have the potential to stir emotion, heighten awareness, and become fully immersive experiences. Atmosphere is partially a function of factors beyond our control. My experience through Aydelott inspired me to continue to delve into how architecture can shape atmosphere.

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Sources

¹

 

²

³

Thomas Bo JensenP. V. Jensen-Klint: The Headstrong Master Builder, Copenhagen: The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture Publishers (2009), 328.

Thomas Bo Jensen (Head of Research at the Aarhus School of Architecture, Scholar on P. V. Jensen Klint), interviewed by Henry Savoie, Copenhagen, June 17, 2019.

 

Jensen, P. V. Jensen-Klint, 297.

JensenP. V. Jensen-Klint, 328.

Kaj Thaning, and Per KirkebyGrundvigs Kirke 1990, Copenhagen: Grundtvigs Kirkes Menighedsråd (1990).

All Sites.

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