Refuge and retreat

The other day I visited an exhibition at the V&A called ‘Small Spaces’ , featuring a series of built spaces in the museum that explore the theme of refuge and retreat. The emphasis was on ‘small’, with a series of these small retreat spaces scattered through the museum

I liked how all the displays were really sensitive to the texture of materials and proportion. The spiritual quality of wood, for example, was explored in all designs. The one I liked most was a charming and beautifully designed tree house called Beetle’s House. It would be a fantastic (if slightly eccentric) feature of any back yard – somewhere you can escape to and get away from it all.

Beetle's House, V&A

The Japanese architect who designed the piece said he wanted to create a ‘retreat in the air’ – an intimate space where people could sit round and talk, and drink tea. You can climb up and into the tree house and watch the world of the V&A go by, or sit and speak to whoever else is in there at the time.

Another one I liked was ‘Ark’ by Norwegian architects, involving a hollow tower made up of thousands of books (6,000 altogether) – you climb up the inside of the tower and have a browse if you so wish on your way up.

This made me think about the aesthetic aspect of retreats – how colour, texture, smell and space are all so important in contributing to the spiritual experience.


One thought on “Refuge and retreat

  1. As someone who spends most of the time on her own, usually without background radio or anything, the idea of a small, dedicated space still appeals to me.
    I really like the idea of simple, uncluttered living in an aesthetically pleasing space, but I know myself, and ‘stuff’ would creep in. Books, plants, paintings and sculptures – I could never keep it pure!

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