monastery design


have to design a monastery situated on top Mt. Nebo, Jordan. i am having a hard time finding recent precedents. so La Tourette and Marcel Bruer's are already givens. any other insight on evolution of monastic building?
I have seen pictures of Neil Denari's design of a monastery in NYC dated in 1983. Does anyone have any information about this?

thanks a lot

Sep 29, 04 11:04 pm

John Pawson just did a Monastery - see here. Also investigate Dom Hans van ver Laan.

Sep 30, 04 12:13 am

There is a bit about Neil Denari's monastery in Building Machines (Pamphlet Architecture, No 12).

Oct 8, 04 11:24 am

The austere Benedictine monasteries of Dom Hans van der Laan could be interesting, although his use of the "plastic number" smells a bit of anachronistic transcendental mathematics.

Oct 8, 04 11:35 am

There were actually architects before le Corbusier!
So the history section of the library might be a good place for info.
One of most amazing is the monatery in Meteora, Greece
there is more religious architecture images on the same site

Oct 8, 04 3:37 pm

There were actually architects before le Corbusier!
So the history section of the library might be a good place for info.
One of most amazing is the monastery in Meteora, Greece
there is more religious architecture images on the same site

Oct 8, 04 3:37 pm

Note to self:
press submit just once...

Oct 8, 04 3:38 pm

oh, Corbu wasn't the first architect?

I have looked at monastic design from it's beginning in the Medival Period to Modernism. The oraganization and form is relatively unchanged in a millenia.

I was hoping there would be new insights into monsatic design. The problem is that the monastery has become an uncommon building type in the last century. So I was hoping for new endeavors!

I guess I am SOL.

Oct 9, 04 3:06 pm
Per Corell


I find this topic very interesting, it concern the attitude of the designer.
To reflect and serve as an icon a mountain must be ideal. Creating a structure that in it's structure is so wise that ofcaurse it reach the sky, how simple can it be ;))
I looked at Mr. Pawson's plans call for restoring an abandoned baroque manor house to form one end of the monastery's courtyard, and find so nice details , anyway to reflect the wish for progress and new jobs is proberly quite enough for one person, but realy if you want to reflect what is possible today, the form will be different than Barok, or maby not.

Oct 9, 04 3:41 pm


The Corbu thing is just a personal frustration, I studied in Delft and there was some heavy Corbu indoctrination going on...we actually had a stunning 8 hours of arch. history during the whole study...a lecture with greek arch. before the break and roman after et cetera .

For more insight in monastery design the books of Umberto Eco might be a good source, 'the name of the rose' I think is the english name of the one I read last year. A phonebook size whodunnit based in an Italian monastery, gives an excelent insight in medieval monastrey life.

Good luck with your project.

ps. what does SOL mean?

Oct 9, 04 3:57 pm

moratto - the simple reason that monastic design hasn't changed much is that the liturgical requirements for the design haven't changed in a millenia. if there is one project type where layout follows function, this is it. there is, though, some room to reconsider the aesthetic expression, but even with that, it becomes a relative equation with the monastic orders. some eschew any kind of iconography, some are more lenient.

i'd be a little leery of denari's project - it has a really loose interpretation of what constitutes a monastic procession through a daily ritual. for a really good older structure, look at the le thoronet monastery in central france. it is the subject of a book by corbusier (he swore it had the most beautiful light he'd ever seen. same with tadao ando). an older a+u publication, called 'poetics of light' has some stunning color photos of the building.

Oct 9, 04 5:06 pm

Make the cleavage that will destroy the ego and open up the universe. Then you will find the intersection. The material of the Monastery should disappear. If you are successful, your design will resonate into nothingness.
Any successful precedant will not be found.

Oct 9, 04 6:50 pm

well I have finished the research and concept phase, so on to designing! thanks for all the ensight. school is a time to experiment and that is what I am doing.

but monasteries are a very interesting topic. They are the first mix-use building. But what really interests me is the social aspect and how the building form reflects that. Has anyone visited a monastery and can reflect on that experience?

on Eco's "The Name of the Rose", I opted to watch the movie instead of reading the book (due to time management). The movie stars Sean Connery and Christian Slater, it is a good flick. I understand that Eco's writing is magnificent, so I'll probably pick it up in the summer.

SOL= "shit out of luck"-a Midwest American term, sorry for the confusion

Oct 10, 04 6:11 pm

If you know how to meditate, you should have no problem with your design.

Oct 10, 04 9:25 pm
David Cuthbert

yes there was architecture before Corb but is it worth studying?

majority of the worlds monasteries were built in the Romanesque or Rennaisance period approximately 2000+ (some where built and rebuilt) from as far west and as far south. The result is that they all look the same or are laid out similarly.

Oct 11, 04 12:52 pm

Maybe there was a reason they were all laid out the same, something Cor Busier didn't understand.

Oct 11, 04 4:55 pm

the bird didn't miss much gustav!

<---- in the midst of a deep bow wow wow...

Look to the roots and depths of your soul morrato and good luck!

You see Jordan and why is on top of a mountain and do meditate and just let it flow for a while.

The old ways were new then, be bold, what a cool project!

Oct 11, 04 10:45 pm

is this christian ortodox monestery?

Oct 13, 04 10:23 am

yes, Fransican order. But that most Christian Orthodox/Catholic are not much different.

Oct 13, 04 10:38 pm
David Cuthbert

Actually gustav - Corbusier got alot of right, La Tourette is regarding by most monastic orders as truly encapsulating the ideas of reformation and the aspects of the 2nd Vatican - don't hate

John Pawson recent bears a strong resemblence as well

Oct 14, 04 11:01 am

He must have got it right for the parameters he was given.

Oct 14, 04 12:14 pm

I visited a monastary in Utah that was basically a bunch of World War II Quonsit huts. It was a very utilitarian and simple building, and its lasted in that form for over 50 years.

Monastaries are very quiet places, which can be peaceful or depressing depending on how you look at it.

This was a Roman Catholic monastary, but most major world religions have monastic traditions of some sort or another.

If I were doing this project, I would try to get more into issues of monasticism, what it means to live an aesetic life, etc. rather than getting too bogged down in the styles of precedent.

Oct 14, 04 3:00 pm

sorry, and "ascetic" life.

Oct 14, 04 3:02 pm

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