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The Church of The Order of Discalced Carmelites, Snagov, RO

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The Monachal Complex is a place of worship for the monks of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, a contemplative monk order known for its austerity. Its design is a concept that balances old and new, inspired from the traditional Romanian architecture but re-interpreted, reconsidered, modernized and adapted to current needs.

 

The Order's desire was to remove the rigid association of ecclesiastic architecture with religious symbols and to build anew, without desecrating the place in any way.

 

Finding and absorbing traditional Romanian architectural symbols, structures and concepts was a positive and enhancing start: the austerity of the order and the simplicity of traditional Romanian architecture fit beautifully together. Simplicity does not mean the total removal of ornament but actually putting it in the spotlight; this is clearly exemplified by the black and white game of the wood-enriched facades, inspired by the craft of the master carpenter creating vernacular buildings. The Horsehead, a symbol of mastery, is the leitmotif of the detail in the framing, where windows and consoles impose a rhythm, where massive wooden pillars express strength and the shape of the roof structure relaxes the viewer with its flow.

 

The tower, the monastery, the guest house and the church, gathered together to give birth to the two courtyards. One for the ritual, a chiostro exclusively for the monks, the other, bigger, having a regrouping role for spiritual peace and rest - right under the gentle lap of the church.

 

The whole ensemble wears this traditional tailored coat, not copied but freshly interpreted. The church, however, goes much further and hides inside a unique universe, a modern interpretation of the ancient structure, a special flow of the forces. The image of the old arch gives way to the beauty of the wooden structure that was always hidden in ancient times.  The arch rests on 12 pillars, with engineered wooden lamellar ribs, which cling to the walls and stride heavily on solid concrete consoles. The zebra floor, a natural granite, makes the transition from darkness to light, from the profane to the divine.

 

The gateway of the church is a massive wooden gate with bronze elements, in the theme of the Annunciation. Hand sanded wood and a transparent glass strip invite the viewer along with the door handle, to the inside. The stained glass windows are in simple tones of warm yellow, designed to tame the little slender wooden structure. The mosaic fills the entire altar, bringing - indirectly - the light towards the interior of the church.  Side balconies cling strongly to the wooden structure with the metallic flow of the lyres,  an element born from the need to mitigate a possible massive structure in the median area that could have been disharmony.

 

This project shows that there is room - in an age of new technologies - for the modern to incorporate and adopt the traditional, with the functionality of the old rite enhanced by this approach.

Photos by Viorel Plesca

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