Location: Chiajna, Bucharest
“Once a […] monk has made his final vows, the monastery becomes his entire world. It is a life without distraction of personal possessions or even idle conversation, bounded by prayer, physical labour and scriptural study. But monks are still human, subject to the same potential for loss of concetration, iritation and despondency as the rest of us. In this enclosed world, physical surroundings take on an enourmosly magnified importance. For the spiritual health of the community it is vital that the architecture of the monastery does all it can to support rather than distract the monks.”
The monastery is located in the north-west of Bucharest, near the Giuleşti hamlet, on the street extension of the same name formerly a forest meadow and more recently a chaotic area of the city.
The new proposal takes into account the old dimensions of the enclosure, found in both archaeological studies and historical maps. Envisioning a neutral piece of architecture, created from a uniform material, to support the religious life and respecting the principles designated to monastery construction within the country.
Older traditional enclosures had the size of their buildings and structures adjusted to the needs, giving an overall scenic character. I deliberately used this feature implementing it in a roof installation which has different heights and gauges depending on the sheltered spaces that give the construction an overall visual fluency.
As in the traditional scheme, the division between secular and religious areas was achieved by building a new yard in front of that containing the church. In a time when the church seeks a rapprochement with the people, this new court houses public secular venues and institutions, from accommodation to classrooms and libraries. The second courtyard is exclusively designed for the religious life, this is where the church is located, along with chapels, monks’ refectory, and cells. Diaphragms that support the central body symbolically state the passage from one world to another.
The location suggested the vertical layout of the complex, with the yard placed under the main entrance to the site. It contains household buildings, also giving access to the monastery garden and orchard.
Behind the large backyard the private cemetery of the settlement is located, with the chapel placed on the same axis as the bell tower in the first courtyard. Parking lots for visitors are in the immediate vicinity of the enclosure.
The entire complex is made of exposed white concrete, a material that maintains the neutral and introverted character of the ensemble.
The former church of the Chiajna monastery is an outstanding piece of religious architecture of the High Middle Ages: retaining its uniqueness, it is a work of maturity and synthesis. The concept behind the church reunification is intended as a negative of the interior space, made of the same white concrete, material that can directly express that aspect. The new coating flows like resin over the ruins and has its own structure, distinguishing itself from the old walls. A steel structure backs up the brick walls and supports the painted glass, while the floor is made of small pieces of white mosaic.
The Orthodox worship space is tranquil, waiting for God. These characteristics gift the monastery with an introverted and neutral character. The architecture of the complex should help sustain a fitting religious atmosphere.