Much has been written on the convent of Sainte Marie de La Tourette (1959, Evreux, France) designed by architect Le Corbusier and his then assistant, mathematician and musician, Iannis Xenakis. It is indeed an architectural masterpiece, fit for its usage. Anyone can, looking at photographs, appreciate the masterful use of light, color and the undulatory façades that bring joy to ascetic living. Yet, one needs to experience what I come to call a *friar’s habit*, a garment barely comfortable, insulating and quiet, adjusted to monastic activities: the study of religious texts and philosophy, the prayers before each meal, and meditation. When the building material and volumes amplify the sound of the worship service, light sublimes it.
It is also space where silence is obliged—any other sound is very much a disturbance as one can hear a whisper or the alarm clock of their next-door neighbor. With the concrete at times so thin and so old that it cracks, without any insulation except maybe for few rooms under the planted roof, the habit (the word translates as ‘clothe’ in French) intimates us to silence and sensory engagement.
It has been a pleasure to experience the building along with summer school students of the Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture. We felt extremely privileged to be given access to the rooftop and the crypt:
We spent a couple of days producing sensory maps of a section of the building—we chose to map the corridor linking the church to the dining hall. A section of this corridor slopes up when you come out of the church highlighting the fact that we are in a “higher state of mind” as Nathalie observed—physically ascending as we are spiritually elevated!
We were trying to make sense of sensory data collection, meaning and representation:
Thank you Confluence for the invitation and everyone for the wonderful work!