Church Update 2

Article for DOMUS magazine:

Beijing Suburb Chapel

-Background

The site is a new residential future development of around a million square meters in a suburb of Beijing. It is currently a vast piece of land freed from any human interventions in terms of architecture and landscape. In the future it will be surrounded by high rise residential buildings, a bus terminal and a shopping centre.

-Question

What is a church? A church is a communication place where the human soul meets the divine. It is a shelter for not only religion and reflection, but it also serves as a communal centre for the fellow believers.

In China, Buddhism temples or ancestral temples provide similar functions but of course the expressions in architecture are different.

Having similar functions but different expression in architecture makes us ask the question how this is caused. Is the cause a result of different religions, or because the interpretation of spaces are different in different societies?

Does the expression of architecture need to be integrated in the culture that they are in?

给DOMUS杂志的文章 

背景

这是一个位于北京房山区的大型住宅开发项目里的一个社区小型基督教堂的设计。位于新规划的社区丁字路口把角处。周围为高层塔式住宅、公交站场及大型购物中心。

现状是空地,未来四周则是全新的高密度高层居住建筑人工环境(也可以理解为与我们的项目差异性极大,以至于可以不将它们考虑为同类对待的环境)。没有现状的环境作为设计起点,也没有未来建成的都市环境可以互相呼应,整个项目是没有外部环境的单栋建筑。它的孤立很容易让人想到Herzog & de Meuron 在法国Leymen做的一栋小住宅,发生在纯粹自然的空旷的坡地上。虽然考虑了景观,但建筑本身的质量和内部显然是建筑师工作的重点所在。这和在这些年我们所参与到的和城市紧密结合的城市性工程是完全不同的经历。

关注问题

什么是教堂?现代的西方依然是个宗教社会,教堂的形式和功能有所演变。但它还是人们寻找心灵慰籍的庇护所,也是与神沟通的地方。根据它所处位置不同,它又是城市中供市民休息的场所,或社区居民的聚会地。中国传统的寺庙和祠堂于此功能上并没有太大的差别。反而是形式和空间上的差异显著。那么是宗教的不同,还是东西方人对形式和空间的理解不同导致了这种差别呢?关注这个问题也就是关注一种有趣的假设:是中国的基督徒在西式的教堂空间里更能获得心灵的慰藉呢,还是中国式的寺庙建筑更适合他们?或者还有两者之间的可能性建筑存在?


Currently there are many Christian gathering places located in residences. Because of the context where these churches are set, the architectural elements that symbolize a church such as towers and crosses are lacking. Yet the church functions as a place of worship, praying and gathering amongst fellow believers.

Another example of a place of worship in a different space than the designated space of worship, are Buddhist temples in many Chinatowns throughout the world. Also here the believers took a random place for mainly worshipping, praying and gathering with fellow believers. The interior and the exterior of these places do not have any significant signs or symbols expressing that this is an actual temple.

Traditional or symbolic architectural elements are not necessarily to define the function of a space. Splitting those symbols away from the church design is our first step.

-Study

In our studies we were looking mainly at how light is interpreted since light is an important subject in Christianity. For example:

The Saint Benedict Chapel of Peter Zumthor has no symbolic elements except for the light. The light setup in the Chapel was inspired by the set-up of a Gothic church. The windows are located by the eaves and the lights come down to the floor from high above. Except for these lights there are no other openings in the walls. Light here symbolizes divinity.

Two other examples of light usage as a concept of the design are the Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp and the Seattle University’s Chapel of St. Ignatius. Here too architecture is considered as the container of architecture. Light is the main subject in architecture.

In Chinese culture, light has the same importance but different meaning than in the Western culture. Light in Chinese culture is more considered first as a natural element rather than a divine element. The ever-changing light rays leaking from the seams of doors and windows indicate the changing of seasons. The passing and changing of time is just like God himself, everywhere.

-Practice

They are several directions that we can take. One is to choose materials that is relating to the context that is set. Second is to attempt to raise a discussion concerning the subjects above.
Other than the two directions they are also two radical paths that we can take. One is to move the torn down old residences of Beijing city centre to our new site. In case of this a transmission of the function from being a residence and change to a church is caused. In this way old city fabrics are woven into a new urban fabric. This could be the cause of the second path. In the second path we will strive to build a Church that adapts its context where it’s set. A discussion is what we want to trigger. A discussion of whether religion and its associated physical forms have to be interlinked with each other.

-Plan

The concept is composed by three parts, the Structure, the Courtyard and the Chapel

The Structure is the building structure but without the building envelop. It cannot be used as a shelter. It is the metaphor of a life without religion, a life that has a shell but no content inside.

The Courtyard is the space framed from all sides except the sky. It is where human is contacting Nature, a moment where the soul meets the divine in Nature.

The Chapel is the only enclosed space. It is where the prayer can have an intimate moment with the divine.

Light is an important role in the concept. However, the usage of light will be adapted to the interpretation of it in Eastern societies.

Since it is in the concept design stage, we invite different and even contradiction ideas to be expressed.

-Materials

Old or aging materials are what we look for. Hardness and softness will be contrasted to each other. Bricks, wood, oxidation metal, recycling roof tiles and straws are all possible materials we are considering.

(Translated by Crystal Tang)
观察中发现,中国许多没有登记备案的教徒聚会场所往往在平房民宅中,似乎对空间和形式的要求在现实压迫下变为了功能的极简,另一方面也折射出教堂形式和空间在这些教徒的心灵中不具备不可替代性。当尖顶、钟塔甚至十字架等象征性的符号都不存在时,教堂因为教徒的祈祷而依然存在。

更进一步观察发现,西方许多城市的唐人街都有中国人去的佛堂,这些佛堂的式样五花八门,既不像寺庙,又不像教堂。但是大多没有中国寺庙的气势,等同地混杂与周围市井建筑中,是放下架子的佛祖在向世俗世界做亲切的召唤。

实际上西方城市里的教堂往往向行人敞开大门,曼哈顿第五大道繁华区的St. Patricks Cathedral 平日里容纳最多的是暂时休息的行人和游客,它的功能更多的是可以遮风避雨的休闲广场。而教会似乎也有意显示与世俗亲近的形象,甚至是运用现代的营销手段来扩大其在未来年轻人中的影响力。

由此我们可以得出,无论在东西方,传统宗教建筑的形式已经不再是其明显标志。脱离了这种形式上的教堂设计使得我们可以更专注以上的问题的研究。

研究

Peter Zumthor 设计的位于瑞士的Saint Benedict Chapel小教堂在材料和空间上也脱离了传统的教堂建筑形式,但是屋檐下的一圈高窗却依然是典型的西方教堂的用光方法,室内的光线从上洒向地面。光在教堂中一直是象征意义多过使用价值,而被赋予了神性的。然而在东方的寺庙建筑中,光被当作是自然的一部分,并没有和信仰联系在一起,也很少被建筑师或工匠组织成能营造气氛的工具。在这方面过去的朗香教堂和九十年代Steven Holl在西雅图大学做的小教堂就是典型的例子。建筑被当成了光的容器,光代表着神,堂而皇之的占据着空间的主导地位,人,作为祈祷者在空间里的位置是次要的。

在这个项目中,我们质疑这种西方式的光线运用,试图摆脱光的这种主导性,重新回归它的自然属性。因为原本在东方人的心目中,光就不带有这种特殊地位的神性。看看中国的寺庙,庙宇低矮的檐口瓦片的滴水撞击地面声,和人同高度的大门和窗外渗进来的自然光,随四季阴晴变化而忽明忽暗的空间似乎都是有神性的,屋外的蝉声,变旧的木屋架,庭院里的落叶,只要随时间而变化的东西,在东方人的眼里就都可以是神性的。

尝试

尝试有两个方向,一是如何选择有意义的材料进行建造,二是建造的空间如何能进一步引发前文的思考和质疑。针对性的尝试有两个极端化手段:一,选择一个北京城内正在拆迁的民居,在新址翻建。实现材料功能转化,同时过去的使用痕迹被新的使用传承,城市的碎片被拾起并重新摆放,这些材料所特有时间痕迹就是它的意义所在。我们也希望这体现时光流逝的环境可以传递出东方的自然主义的神性。二,建造的就是一个东方的庙宇建筑,模糊不同宗教种类的空间或形式界限。引发疑问,并重新思考宗教与环境的关系可能性。

方案

针对以上从极端到折衷的不同尝试,产生的概念方案大多将空间分成三部分,由构筑物、庭院和祈祷室组成。构筑物是视觉的焦点,有建筑的形式和结构,但不围合,不封闭,不能遮风挡雨。象征世俗的人生没有神的庇护的状态。进入庭院,四周与外界隔开,是个只见天地的地方,也是人介于有无信仰之间的状态,即人心和自然的相通。最后进入的是建筑中唯一有真正意义的房顶和四壁的空间室内 – 祈祷室 – 这里提供的是最基本,却也可以说是完整的祈祷空间。

光,依然作为设计的元素被组织在这些不同的方案里,但是却是与其它自然环境因素一道,用来区分室内与室外、表现时间和气候变化。而这些在我们看来是最有可能让东方教徒所感悟到的神性所在。

既然是概念方案阶段,就不可避免的会有多种方案出现以便比较和刺激新的可能性出现。在这个阶段,我们也不回避可能有的自相矛盾甚至是思维的暂时倒退。

材料

旧的和会变旧的材料是我们寻找的。硬的和软的质地应该会交替出现。砖石砌筑,木屋架,氧化的金属,回收的砖瓦,经过处理的稻草都是可能的。

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