Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cistercian Monastery, Island of Tautra

Cistercian Monestary, Jensen Skodvin Architects
 TAUTRA ISLAND, 1.5 hours north east of Trondheim 
63' north

Before heading towards the Island of Vega and then further beyond the artic circle, I made a stop at the Island of Tautra.  Located within the protective fold of the Trondheim sound, the island had been the location of a medieval monastery.  Though comparably humble in scale, Tautra island and the monastic tradition here had a broad reach in the northward expansion of Christendom.  From this spot theology was studied, then spread with along with trade and the seed national consciousness.

The new monastery, completed in 2006, has much lighter disposition than the thick bulwarks that remain of the original monastery. Instead of the vertical rhythm of the Romanesque arch, JSA's building opens with a spectacular horizontality.  Left structurally open, the interior of the chapel opens to a sparse altar.  In a move that connects activity of insular reflection to the outside world, the enclosure beyond the altar is simple glazing with a view to the shore, sea and sky.  The spatial organization in the interior is divided into two realms by this projecting view. The clean and open ceremonial space is compressed by the structural virtuosity of the enclosure's wooden beams.  In its framing of the outside world and openness, this modern Chapel brings the horizon line into the interior space.  Here, the built work possess a quality in the similar conceptual vein of Sverre Fehn's metaphoric use of a boat to explain the forces at play along the water's edge.  When elevated above the foreground, a structure meets the horizon in buoyant dynamism, or as Per Olaf Fjeild writes in, "The Construction of Thought", a material element can serve as, "a kinetic link between the sea and sky." 

The unadorned, but thoughtful framing system of the roof, elevates wood making it a precious material.  The sharp angles of the beams' differing orientation catch light in its varied intensities and moods.  With a clear weather barrier for the roof, the wood is allowed to gleam with and cast sensuous warmth.  This nuanced vernacular style serves the function of both structure and the communicative charge of stained glass, thus acting as a truly sustaining structure.

In a final move, the busy vectors of the triangulated beams act to almost compress the clean glazing that opens the altar to the sea. When looking out to the water, the depth of the sea and sky are compressed under this busy interlocking, creating a view that flirts with two dimensionaity.  The structure flattens the landscape with the weight and temporality of light, creating an effect not unlike a lived-in Cézanne.


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