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.

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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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