Novy Dvur Monastery

Here's a visual tour of the Novy Dvur Monastery west of Prague in the Czech Republic.

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An estate was acquired for the new Cisterian monastery, which included a Baroque manor house and three agricultural wings framing a courtyard.

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The new monastery was designed by John Pawson, an appropriate choice for a monastic order with an historic "emphasis on the quality of light and proportion, on simple, pared down elevations, restrained detailing and spatial clarity."

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Pawson's scheme preserves the Baroque manor, while replacing the three agricultural wings with new construction built upon the old footprints. The pared down elevations and space of the new Church is apparent in these drawings.

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The existing buildings were extremely deteriorated, requiring extensive restoration -- carried out by Atelier Soukup -- and helping to determine what could be reused and what would need to be demolished.

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Since construction started with the manor house restoration, by the time the Church began construction, monks were already living on site.

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The shell of the Church was ready for Easter mass in 2003, with final completion and consecration of the Monastery and Church on September 2, 2004.

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The circular form of the Church is the most distinctive exterior gesture of the design.

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The cloister is one of the most important aspects of the monastery. This corridor outside the church space borders the cloister, its barrel-vaulted space recalling traditional courtyard loggias as well as the Church exterior.

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This circular shape is carried through effectively to other parts of the design.

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The main church space is very simple, but this simplicity is balanced by dramatic lighting and a grand scale.

Some details:

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  1. What a shame...had the chance to make something beautiful.

    Just what we needed, another wallmart without the inventory.

  2. Anonymous said...
    What a shame...had the chance to make something beautiful.

    Just what we needed, another wallmart without the inventory.

    Are You Blind?

  3. I extremely agree with Craig about anonymous' statement.

    What Pawson did in this case represents everything that is right/good with minimalist design.

    anonymous...check've have a lot to learn

  4. pity that you can't see the beauty in it. If only Walmart looked like this!

  5. Part of the essence of Cistercian spirituality is simplicity and this certainly includes their architecture: no adornments. I think their founding fathers would applaud what Pawson has achieved regardless of whether other people can 'read' it as a Cistercian would. Each to their own, I guess.

  6. hey anonymous next time check it before you wreck it man.. youve damaged the whole vibe of this conversation.

  7. While this reflects the Cistercian simplicity I cannot help but get a vibe that this deviates somewhat with the architectural philosophy of St. Bernard. it may be the almost total emphasis on light and the ratios of the buildings, which are inherent to Cistercian architecture, are left without decoration. I know this was part of the minimalist design, but I still feel like this deviates somewhat from the Cistercian architecture Bernard of Clairvaux had envisioned. Any thoughts?

    1. Well, no, because I have no idea what "the architectural philosophy of St. Bernard" is. Can you explain it?

  8. I agree with anonymous.

    Though restrained, traditional (western) monastic architecture still has a lot going on. If the language is classical - as it commonly is (and thus implicity ordered) a single elevation may contain coinstones, arches, compound columns, carved pilasters, architraves, fluting etc., the geometries of which resonate with one other, achieving a harmonius whole.

    Interior textures are rich and deep: painted shale render, plaster, carved stone, lower register rustication, ceilings of clay brick laid in a herringbone pattern.

    Monasteries are deceptive in their simplicity. Pawson, for all his celebrated fastidiousness misses the point entirely here, producing a unengaging, crayon-drawing of a building, with only one or two gestures to ecclesiastical architecture to distinguish it from one of his domestic projects.

    This begs the question of how to create a new, authentic architectural language, one that feeds the eye and lifts the soul, and how to make it last. I realise some formal aspects of building such as arches and columns are the product of engineering and not aesthetics, but reducing classical forms is unacceptable.

  9. I believe your missing the point of the beauty of designing for the purpose. This building captures every essence of necessity with little to spare beyond that. History in architecture won't necessarily be written by indicative movements and definite materials. I don't think there is any reason to break down this beautiful monastery to judgements of movements of design and material. Ecclesiastical architecture needs to speak of new ideas just as well as other buildings. Pawson did a remarkable job of using light as a critical material for providing the monks with the best building for their lives. Pawson remarked on his minimalism saying that as a child he felt clear spaces made his mind feel clear. What better for a monk than a clear mind. Crowding these walls would be a shame to the beauty of Pawson's creations.

  10. I imagine this building is being judged on these images alone. Experiencing it is quite another thing. I went to a service there in 2005, and 11 years on, the reaction that the space elicited is still as fresh and vibrant. A pared down simplicity that dramatically heightened sensory experience if sound, light, volume and the numinous...


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