A place of sanctuary for two or three people constructed from approximately 400 pieces of bamboo. As well as being a place of reflection the project also seeks to reflect on the changing behaviours of spirituality. Once institutionalised and collectivised spirituality is increasingly defined and practiced by the individual rather than determined by a religious ideology and structure
This project was a collaboration with illustrator and sculptor Jennifer Argo and is born out of our own observation that as people depart from traditional forms of organised religion they also limit the opportunity to engage in experiences of memory, ceremony and sanctuary in pursuit of their own spirituality. All people, regardless of faith, require an outlet for peace, reflection, thought, discussion and prayer. Our project seeks to explore the physical possibilities of such a space in a manner that provides for both the individual and the wider collective.
This concept presents a design for a 3.6 x 3.6 x 3.6m sized cube that is then carved to create a sense of arrival, journey and discovery. The space initially constricts to create a slight sense of tension and trepidation before a manipulation of light guides the individual to alcoves and a room that provide opportunities for singular and collective moments of peace, reflection and sanctuary.
The use of bamboo to create a forest of slender vertical elements provides an opportunity to create a sense of enclosure and detachment whilst never losing sight and an awareness of the outside world. Rather than create an explicit and literal sense of detachment and escape, the sanctuary instead acts as a mediating device between the sights, sounds, smells and movements of the city.
A team of volunteers was assembled during the summer of 2014 to test the concept at 1:1. The concept was constructed within the Glue Factory, an arts and venue space within the north of Glasgow. Engineering support and advice was provided by David Narro Associates and a structural strategy was developed that would use the floor and roof to conceal a simple timber frame that would be supported by the forest of bamboo columns.
Over 400 individual pieces of 45mm dia. bamboo have been utilised in the construction of the pavilion, set out on a staggered 100mm grid and placed at a variety of densities to control, light, view and sense of place. Each section of bamboo has been pre-drilled to allow connection to timber elements that are attached to the ceiling panels, creating modular elements that can then be slotted into the structural frame. CNC cut floor and ceiling panels were produced by Flux Studio to act as a device to both order and contain the bamboo poles whilst also concealing the fixings utilised to connect the bamboo to the timber frames within the floor and ceiling. A central timber framed and plywood clad element was designed to sit within the centre of the object. This element created a physical transition between the journey and the final space whilst also containing the seating and storage elements. It also performed a structural role by providing lateral stability as a bracing element for the rest of the structure. Our concept provides the opportunity for people to explore a theme of secular spirituality as manifest through physical form.
The sanctuary was officially opened to the local community on 9th May 2015 and is located in burnt out ruined remains of Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson’s Caledonia Road Church. People were provided with the opportunity to explore the space and experience the inside remains of Caledonia Road Church which had been closed to the public for over 40 years. As well as testing and recording people’s response to our work this event was also intended to utilise Caledonia Road as a social space for the local community for the first time without the use of a specific cultural or artistic device. The space was opened up as an environment to be interpreted by both young and old as they wished without additional distraction or forced modes of engagement. Food was provided shared and cooked collaboratively and the possibilities for the space as a unique, simple and inviting space that could provide both individual and collective moments of wonder and delight were realised.