The use of light can lead to very diverse feelings: a ray of sunlight calls attention; glare overpowers; the nocturnal sky fascinates, while a dense dark forest arouses fear. Religions have made use of these experiences to convey the mystic aspects of their respective deities — accordingly, so too do their erected buildings.
Gottfried Böhm’s Mariendom in Neviges, Germany, encloses the contemplative visitor in a dark environment to focus his attention away from the material world and towards inner enlightenment. The daylight, which enters through small rooflights, only slightly highlights the altar. The concept deliberately plays with adaptation, where the eye slowly adjusts from a bright exterior to darker interior, giving the impression that the environment turns slightly brighter over several minutes.
Peter Zumthor further developed this concept of the dark shelter in the Bruder Klaus Field Chapel, Germany, where the cavity is made from a charred black wooden frame. As a counterpoint, small bottle glass portholes add points of light. Zumthor bases the sensual experience on an intense contrast between daylight and darkness that surprises the visitor. The pilgrims are led from a timid darkness to poetic twinkling stars.
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Written By: Thomas Schielke
Image Courtesy of: Hisao Suzuki