25. Nov 2015

Deliberate simplicity

Photos: Viorel Plesca

The church and monastery that make up the Monachal Complex offer a place of worship for the monks of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, which dates back to the 16th century. From the outside the complex in Snagov/RO looks like an inviting hotel. The spire with the cross can be seen from afar, however, indicating that this is a sacred location.

The facades on the buildings are white, the roof projecting slightly over the walls – typical features of the architecture of sacred buildings in Rumania.
Similar to the exterior, much of the interior of the church, including the reflective flooring, is white.

During the daytime, natural light penetrates the interior space through the windows in the side walls and through four skylights. After dark, the reinforced fibreglass arched sections that form the unique ceiling are uplit, rendering the nave extremely bright. Wall-mounted downlights at ground and gallery level ensure the perimeters are adequately lit.

The client wished to remove the impedimental association of architectural detail with religious symbols, such as stained glass. The challenge was to build the spaces without desecrating them in any way. Keeping the space austere and simple did not mean removing all ornamentation, but allowing certain features to stand out in the (day)light. Sparkling mosaics on the walls surrounding the altar, for example, bring more light into the central space.

The wooden arches that form the vaulted ceiling and were inspired by gothic architecture were custom made in Italy. The galleries along both sides of the nave are an integral part of the arched wooden structure, which is supported by twelve huge black metal “wings”.

The light-coloured materials applied fit well with the illuminated ceiling construction. A modern interpretation of a church, inspired by gothic architecture but without the low light levels we otherwise associate with sacred buildings of that epoch.

Project team:

Client: Order of Discalced Carmelites – Antonio Prestipino
Architects: Bee Architects, Bucharest – Tudor Radulescu, with Mizar Proiect, Bucharest –Andrej Stefancic
Mosaics: Marko Ivan Rupnik, Centro Aletti, Rome


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