‘It is hard to imagine a society that denies the body, like previously the soul was denied. Still, this is the society we are heading for.’
Paul Virilio (French philosopher)
Inside the forest on the moraine Nijmegen lies a mysterious meadow with distant views. One expects a country house, but there is nothing. A dilapidated monumental barn along the access road clarifies that the estate is sidetracked. Our plan aims to revitalize this landscape. The architecture reflects the geomorphic history of the site since the ice age.
The design research challenges the traditional religious building as a static and regulating centre in urban planning. Meditation is possible at any time, at any place, by anybody, whether at the busstop, while dishwashing or on a silent spot in nature. Yet a physical site is chosen to allow presence in a gathering of people.
Left to its fate the landscape of the estate Nederrijk loses perspective of survival. Instead it could be newly made productive. Not by further consumptive use and fragmentation, but by continuing its existence as a public property, for instance with a communal building.
The building offers various spaces to large and small groups of people who wish to gather for meditative purpose. Their stay varies from one hour to one week. Courses and workshops are held. Like in any other house there is room for daily activities. At least fifty people can sleep here and there is a communal bathhouse and kitchen.
Historical characteristics of religious buildings, like the strict east-west orientation, symmetry, the typology of tower and dome, the formal and abstract expression of the traditional religious architecture, are dropped. Architecture is made for the senses and sensuous design for eternity requires liberation from dogmatic geometry.
is to revalue archetypes from various religions. For example the experience of time, expressed in a sequence of stills while moving through the building; the experience of beauty, expressed in the gentle curves and pure use of materials; reflection, looking back on mysterious routes; union with nature, linking inside and outside, next to a condensed experience of the dynamic forces that shape this landscape. Architecture connects to issues experienced by the body, like the presence of water, the sense of light, blackness and silence. The building is site specific, bound to the location and at the same time has its own potential.
Today we write 2016, twenty years after the design research. An architectural theme that feeds mindfull decision making for the benefit of our public spaces is more urgent than ever. Inspite of several attempts to privatise the use of the Estate, it is still a landscape open to the public. This comes with a high price as the landscape and the historical buildings in it deteriorate rapidly.