the sustainability of meaning: constructing ‘silence and light’ in the fourfold
This study interrogates the questions of meaning and being in architecture, through the observation and translation of the Christian Monastic life (the ‘vita consecrata’ or consecrated life of monks/nuns observing the Catholic faith) into spatial and tectonic knowledge.
In a zeitgeist beset with sustaining the physical and natural world, the project asks: ‘What about the metaphysical? What about death, meaning, and beyond?’ These questions are asked by religion, and are incarnated by those who embody and spatialize the monastic life. It is also a question that has been asked or interpreted by architects and theorists like Christian Norberg Schulz, Kevin Lynch, or philosophers like Martin Heidegger. It is the question of existential space: that the world, and man’s existence in it, is not limited to the physical, temporal, or quantifiable. But that existence is, at its essence, when all aspects of reality intersect.
The study proposes the design project/architectural intent of an Urban Monastery for a global south city. The author puts forward a project which deals with mediating between dialectical relationships through form, space and articulation. The key relationship explored in the study is between the monks/friars and a primary contextual user group, the marginalised os’gadla or barrow operators of inner city Durban, South Africa. The context of inner city Durban and the author’s experience of it as an existential place, is the catalyst as well as thread of the inquiry.