Precedents.

02

Atmospheres in Architecture

 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

Date

Spring 2020

Faculty

Justin Miller

Typology

Thesis Essay

Institution

Auburn University

Full Text

Sacred Space

Institution

Auburn University  |  ARCH 5991

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Isolation and Immersion

 

Architects discussing emotive and phenomenological
atmosphere tend to focus on individual buildings, and on the sequence leading to the interior. There is a point at which an observer notices the generated atmosphere,
thereby crossing over the threshold from the exterior
world. From here on, the observer exists in a miniaturized universe where all experiences are colored by the architecture. Here, the architect crafts an insular experience, in which time stands still. It is a dialogue between visitor and building, where the interactions between the two and the new memories formed are framed by the spaces in question.

 

Emotive atmosphere in architecture is conscious of its place in time, and seeks to transcend, blur, or enhance that relationship. These attitudes towards this fourth dimension are expressed in careful craftsmanship, material selection, and purposeful lighting conditions. Custom details disguise a building’s age, prompting further investigation. These spaces can possess a contemplative attitude towards the passage of time. They project an aura of timelessness which still values the qualitative patina of age.

Objectified Function

The fixtures in the Kolumba Museum
are framed as objects of artwork.

" 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

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Emotive Precedent - Kolumba Museum

 

In his writings and his architecture, Peter Zumthor is a practitioner of emotive atmosphere. Some of his most notable works exploring the topic are museums or archaeological structures, designed to mitigate the relationship between the modern world and historic artifacts. Built in the year 2007 to house a collection of contemporary and religious artwork, his monolithic Kolumba Museum is a carefully controlled sequence of intentional moments. Visiting the Kolumba is an insular experience. Its influence extends nearly a full city block around it, beginning where its monolithic facade is first observed. Aside from a stark and intentional door, it turns its back to the outside world. Even this back is carefully choreographed, composed of multiple brick types reflecting both the building’s connection to the past and its place as a monolith in the larger urban fabric. As visitors move up and into the galleries, heavy, noise isolating materials and minimal apertures shut out the surrounding city.

Objectified Function

The museum is built around the remains of an earlier church, and it pulls its material palette from the ruins.

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Marks of Craft

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

Stone Strata
The original church materials, damaged during World War II, are surrounded by stone blocks and narrow bricks.

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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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“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

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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. 

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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.

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).

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