I-The experience of the environment :
Today I want to tell you about a library in my hometown. Let’s go back to a rainy saturday afternoon. As usual I headed there to have a little read, lucky I was, i’ve found my favorite seat free, the one in the back corner. I organise my stuff on top of the little wooden table and take a little moment to appreciate the beauty of this huge ancient building,I keep scaning all it’s corners and designs , wondering how can a building bring me so much peace and joy. It never fails to mesmorize me. This masterpiece goes back to the 19th century, it has at least 300 000 books filling it’s huge walls from floor to ceiling, wich plays an important role in it’s uniqueness and sharm. The interior is in a dark brown,almost black, wood with gold touches. There is 6 or 7 rows of wooden tables. A skylight, is placed perfectly in the middle of the room letting some sunlight come in but not much since, as known, light can damage books especially ones that go back to years and years ago, the lighting is in a warm yellow adding to the coziness of the whole place.
How wonderful would it be to be in such a magnificient building that holds memories of people who’s culture is almost completely different to ours. Actually, I wouldn’t know either, the library I told you about was no other than the royal portuguese reading room, one of my dream libraries to visit. I wanted to tell you about it from an inside point of view and share with you how I imagine the perfect day there.
But the library that actually marked my childhood is my grandfather’s, I’ve always been amazed by the number of books there and how he displayed them by subject, each part of the shelves was designated to a different topic. He loved reading and made sure he shared every gained knowledge with us. Younger, I always wondered why would he dedicate a total room to his books, like what was so important about them, why would someone find joy reading a book than watching a movie, what made him buy this amount of them and so on…But as I grew older, the picture got clearer and neater and the series of questions that once were unsolved became now evident. I fell in love. I fell in love with the feeling I had each time I would open a book. What makes it better than watching a movie, why the extrawork you may ask, well, with a book you are just presented with a story, you get to choose all your characters, the way they smile, laugh and cry, the setting of their homes and every place the author montiones. Sure, you are following the instructions given by the writer’s description but still, there is millions of options you can translate them to, you just read and leave the work to your imagination.
With that being said, I still go into waves with reading. Sometimes I’m all about it and other times I can’t find the time and energy to do it, I’d prefer laying in bed, watching a movie and not thinking about much. Sometimes I lose the sparkle reading adds to my day. But I always find my way back to it.
Moral of the story, the royal portuguese reading room’s description shows how can architecture, lighting and history of things play a role in the way we visualize that place and in the feelings we have being there. And that’s exactly what people use to advertise a business nowadays, you take a place for example, make up a believable story about it, renovate it based on that and Boom!!..now people would pay to visit it.
Like what actually prooves that Jahan built Taj Mahal out of love for his wife, Mumtaz , maybe he planned on doing so years before and it has nothing to do with her but people tought it would make a much interesting and captivating story that way, maybe it was out of regret for the hurtfull words he’d told her in their last conversation before her death.
People love Love and are even more attracted by heartbreaks and loss. They are curious about the lifestyle of the old centuries, and whoever thought about using this weakpoint of us must be really smart.
On the other hand, my description to my grandfather’s library shows how can a simple place make an impact in our lives . You make me go to the same room, take away the books and the memories I have there and suddenly it’s nothing but a 4 wall room.
To me, no matter where you are, it could be a custle, a cottage or even a tiny house in the middle of nowhere, having good company would make it seem like a place from your dreams.
Surely, the different structures and designs of each place influence the different feelings we have there but actually it’s more the people there, how they treat you, the food they serve you, how welcoming or rude they are, the memories you have in that certain place or the stories that have been carried from generations to another.
Even if my grandad’s library is so much smaller than the royal portuguese reading room , has less books and wasn’t designed by a famous architect like Rafael da Silva e Castro, it will always hold much more value than any other one. It’s not always architecture that controls our emotions in a certain place but it’s the other way around, memories, good or bad, are the one in charge of that.
Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading
II – Reflections of the book : Atmospheres by Peter Zumthor :
Atmospheres, a book is a rather eloquent discourse by Peter Zumthor was published in 2006 after his lecture in the Wege Durch das land, a festival of Literature and Music. The book sheds light on the poetic yet circuitous process of the architect to make his buildings converse with their surroundings. Expanding their building’s beauty to evoke an atmosphere that is abstract yet much desired and felt by the people occupying the space.
The book poses Peter Zumthors’s understanding, values and biases about atmosphere and architecture and how construction is not just a physical or an aesthetic phenomenon but rather a philosophical one. Moreover, the book explains his style and approach as he negotiates with the physicality of the form and material to produce emotional sensibilities that stimulate and move people.
Atmospheres, written in an active voice almost seem like a dialogue in self-reflection and analysis, meandering through questions, answers, examples, thoughts and anecdotes. A free verse in elucidating Zumthor’s affinity for architecture, its presence and beauty. He uses Brahms’ music and Nietzsche’s philosophy to communicate the power of art, music and architecture as well as the intensity, mood, thoughts and magic they produce.
He catalogues his experiences with the craft in nine personal sensibilities that range from Materials, Sound, Temperature, Light to Composure, Seduction, Tension and Intimacy. His practice in phenomenology goes beyond appearance to a deeper understanding of the ambiance and presence of objects in their respective surroundings.
Furthermore, Zumthor gives the readers an account of what is the process to build—to assess different qualities and variants of elements and proportions—coalescing them to create seamlessly built sequences within the interior and the exterior.
In Atmosphere, Zumthor questions the “Magic of the Real” – enabling the craft of architecture to be understood and accessible by everyone. He makes architecture about emotions that envelop us and once we recognise them—the built form presents a personality that is so inherent and tethered to us that we feel different and sublime flowing along with space, appreciating its different forms, sizes, scales, and dimensions.
Zumthor also focuses his attention on Object and Material histories and the way human occupation informs and transforms architectural production. The relationships we develop change meanings and renegotiates the life and use of an object.
He explains the intricacies and tectonics of the slow movement in architecture, deliberately designing signals that guide one to a voyage. An exploration of space through sensorial qualities like sound, air, temperature and light, he makes the users associate with memory, familiarity and wonder as they navigate in between the tangible and the intangible.
The book is designed beautifully, an effortless compilation with images of projects built and in construction along with other illustrations that support the text. The simply produced book is minimalistic, yet carefully designed to embody the style of Peter Zumthor. The scale, layout and cover material of the book displays the atmospheric quality that Zumthor talks about.
The book is written as well as it is structured, an eternal love affair with architecture. From references to Goethe and Hopper, Zumthor uses philosophy, paintings, short stories and experiences to make people understand what architecture and atmosphere is, what it means to him and how he achieves them while designing his structures.
This book is made to be read and reread slowly, carefully—to enjoy, reflect and be conscious of our own decisions. A great book for architects but especially students who are trying to steer their way through architecture. This book almost acts like a bible, a manifesto from which one can learn about the salient beliefs and practices of a respected architect. Its poetic and simple approach is inspiring and challenging and allows the readers to peer more into the details of his works.
This book shows the love and decation Zumthor has for architecture. He analyses in a very poethic way every little thing that relates us, both body and soul, to our surrounding and its architecture. How simple smells, designs and familiarity of spaces can bring us back on a roller coster of memories.
This book sheds light on the different emotions places can bring us, and the importance of their elements, like their scale, lighting, forms, materials…
I think this book is very interesting, Zumthor successed to share with us his ideas in a non-borring way, he wrote it in such a beautiful way that made reading the book not only educational but also fun.