Has an piece of architecture, a space, a home ever created a spiritual experience for you?
Recently, I had the pleasure to tour one of John Pawson's homes. As the gates opened, it felt like the skies opened up radiating beams on lights down on the perfectly situated structured and choirs of angels sang.
Then, the front doors opened and it only got better.
I am a researcher, observer, and constant critique of architecture and design. It is my life, and I immerse myself in it. So, when I say I had a spiritual experience discovering this home, you know it must be something special.
Pawson is known for his fundamental ways of approaching problems of space, light, materials, and proportion.
Each space of this home was perfectly proportionate and each was in perfect proportion to the sum of the entire design. Even though the home was quite large, all the spaces felt as though they were to human scale and intimate. Every inch of the entire home was meticulous throughout and every square foot was adequately used.
The mixture of natural and artificial lighting in the home was designed for different times of day and even different times of the year. I was fortunate to be there at sunset. There we were in the dining room which was appointed with three dining tables and sixteen chairs lined in rows like soldiers pointing to the picture frame window. There is no art on the walls in the dining room. There is no grand chandelier. There is nothing but gallery white walls. The magic of the space was the sunsetting over the mountains of California. When you have a view like that, you don't need art of decoration to take away from it. It was mindfully planned.
Throughout the home, there were creative uses of lighting. In addition to the picturesque windows throughout the home that framed the beautiful views, skylights were also strategically placed making me feel as though I was one with nature. The size and angle at which they were placed created light and shadows on the walls, ceilings, and floors that changed throughout the time we were there. Once again, this became the art.
The use of cove lighting washed the walls with a warm glow. He incorporated lighting in the actual staircase that shone bright like a star leading the way into the darkness of night. The floating bench made of stone was lit by a recessed and cleverly disguised LED light strip. What could be considered utilitarian architectural elements - walls, staircases, and benches - became beautiful sculptural elements.
I have always believed that the finishes of a whole should flow from one space to another. In fact, I believe it is better to have fewer finishes that repeat throughout a home. The stark white walls could have been interpreted as sterile, but in combination with the warm wood tones of the floors, cabinets, concrete, stucco, and stone made it feel more intimate and cozy. All of the materials were natural - nothing man-made. They all complemented the natural California landscape. The textures were contrasting from smooth and soft to more rugged - just like California's beautiful natural wonders.
You don't have to visit a religious building or sacred grounds to have a spiritual experience. Sometimes, they are right there disguised as a simple minimalist home.