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Shades Of Meaning

Part 2 Project 2010
John Brown
University of the West of England, UK
The Shades of Meaning – A Literature Museum for Gloucester

This museum is the ‘genus loci’ of literature. It holds and binds, form, meaning and ideas together.

Here begins the joining of education and philosophy into a tangible experience, enveloped behind a ‘walled’ garden. Whispering trees pause, interrupted by the thoughts of the visitor. Here resides an interpretation of a cloister. To move around its grounds is to slow the heartbeat, and close ones eyes to dream of what has been and what may come. The walk along its path leading to an entrance, the door inviting, larger than usual, welcomes the grip of the listener.

How does literature manifest itself as a space, what does it look like? How does it feel? Ambition for the building is to create shades of meaning and a potential for interpretation. Texts themselves are open to interpretation, their richness, ambiguity and indeterminacy; these are things, which leave it open.

The building uses natural daylight as a means of progression through its spaces. There is a hierarchy to the journey. The emanating light from above draws the visitor from terra firma, to questioning, to solitude and peacefulness.

John Brown

The Shades of Meaning by John Brown

John’s project has the ambition to create a modern priory / scriptorium where there is a clear differentiation between the inner working of this modern priory and the external life of the “apostolate”. Originally the priories were designed to prepare the initiate for the life of contemplation. This project re-captures these practices where the spiritual life becomes the essential means to experiencing life. The austerity, simplicity and the chosen materials of the building reminds one of the atmospheres of sacrifice that was present in the old Priories.

The building not only follows a rigorous set of rules, such us using the dimensions of Gloucester Cathedral’s nave, but at the same time “inflicts” a rigorous aesthetic when designing the spaces within the building. Natural light plays an essential role as it is as takes the visitor on a journey from impurity (darkness) to purity (lightness) from passions to restraint. The severity and discipline nature of the building is taken further with the detailing of its servicing, simple, austere and hardworking.

Initially, when we look at the scheme we see the concepts of “frugality” and “spartanism”. However, the careful design and its detailing take the trained eye to a deeper layer of meaning. John’s scheme gives the visitor both the spiritual atmosphere they seek at the same time as reminding them of the true spirit of the place.

Elena Marco and John Comparelli
Senior Lecturers
Department of Planning and Architecture


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