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Monastery of Irrigation

Part 1 Project 2010
Alistair Williams
University of Westminster London UK
Is there no larger and more encompassing creative element in this world than nature and its perpetual interplay between ourselves and the lives we build? What is a more vibrant, energising icon for nature than the movement and constant renewal of water? It moves through, around, under, over and binds us together. It connects all living beings through a central need, a chemical desire that allows us to grow, to build and strengthen.

The Monastery of Irrigation is imbued with water. It flows around and through, powers and feeds it. It offers aesthetical and spiritual planes. It surrounds and embraces the cold and stark concrete, offering on those blank surfaces, a plane on which light can reflect and play with the water’s shimmering surfaces. Every surface is alive, perpetually moving and giving the building the perception of continual growth and energy.

The realignment of the traditional cloisters, cells and chapel propels the building forward, out of tradition and the esoteric, out of history and into the future, where belief stems from a practical relationship with the world.

It is a building of contrasts, underneath the tones of cascading water lies the mechanical percussive heart of the building. Water transforms from the musical or visual, into something vastly powerful and energising. Again it has the potential to change; the vast water powered pipe organ system, illustrates how water, away from its own natural lyricism, can power and project sound around the entire building. Water’s influence can never be disguised or hidden, it flows inextricably with the building itself.

Due to the adaptable design the monastery can project itself outside its own construction to mark and impact any environment. When the concept is multiplied it increases the inherent power of water.

Water reminds us of our place within something greater, something far beyond our comprehension, something beautiful and powerful. We live and build because of it.

Alistair Williams


The project focus on a reconfiguration of the concept of a monastery. Instead of an autonomous structure isolate from its environment, it try to integrate a mix of social and religious program. Instead of being an horizontal autonomous composition the project try to expose and explore a vertical structure that interline a program of housing (studio, 1&2 bedrooms apartments), power production and public space with the different spiritual part of the monastery.

The particular position of the structure on a weir between high and low water allow the use of hydraulic power to power the building and the water driven by osmosis to the top of the building feed down throughout the monk cells allowing multiple way of reflection, transparency and luminosity.

The vertical public garden of the housing is crisscrossed by the long part of the cloister, allowing a game between enjoyment and concentration, between open space with large view to the landscape and more enclosed space only open to the sky or the horizon.

The Church face the high water and a long window try to bring the multiple aspect of light in the altar. the Baptistery could become a long reflective pool. The constant hum of the underground turbine echo the large organ in the narthex of the church.

The project strive on those opportunity between secular and religious, between technology and aesthetic, between noise and music, and between flatness and verticality.

Tutor(s)
Francois Girardin
Filip Visnjic
Jon Goodbun
2010
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