The intention of this essay is to examine the intrinsic visual-spatial characteristics of the church of the Monastery of La Tourette, and understand their mechanisms, gestation and meaning.
The context for the work is the prevailing insentience at the heart of architectural culture, the systemic denial of the intrinsic visual-spatial sphere and the lack of foundation skills to inform its appreciation.
The fieldwork has consisted of observing and recording the La Tourette church, especially its lighting regimes, through all seasons, weather conditions and usages, and simulating key manifestations through spatial sculpture.
Six characteristics of the church are identified, drawing on the yardstick of Le Corbusier's notion of poetic architecture as ‘plastic happenings’. Its essence is defined as constrained and specific light within penumbra, overlying dynamically juxtaposed heterogeneous spatial forms. The harmony of the church is fragile because it is vulnerable to injudicious lighting, resulting in a duality of transcendence and earthliness. The essay speculates on the cause of the transfiguration from harmony into discord, through analysis of the surviving photographs of the design models.
The presentation is designed to infer enclosed space and minimise imagery, and consists of standard plans and sections including sun-paths, based on the author's measured and heliodon survey, amplified by a number of annotated thumbnail photo-sketches.
The empirical judgements are distilled from the teaching of two masters of the past half century, both working within established traditions, Michael H. Chilton's discourse on basic colour and form, and Geoffrey H. Baker's schematic discourse on form in architecture.
The work concludes that the meaning of the La Tourette church lies in a paradox of transcendent harmony and tragic discord.