Multidisciplinary practice Studio Corkinho has completed Still Room, a monastic space inside a 19th-century Antwerp building where individuals can escape for peaceful contemplation.
Still Room, which has been sparsely finished with a bed and a writing desk, emerged out of Studio Corkinho‘s fascination with silence and how it can be exercised to give architectural spaces a greater sense of meaning.
“Our philosophy for Still Room is to design spaces that connect people to a higher purpose, especially in an era when time, distance and our attention spans are increasingly compressed, the room’s atmosphere brings us back to our human condition,” explained the studio, which is led by Cédric Etienne and Klas Dalquist.
The room is set inside the 11-metre-high tower of Noorderpershuis, a former power station near the port of Antwerp which was originally erected back in 1878.
As Noorderpershuis is protected, the studio had to construct the ultra-tranquil environment without making any major alterations to the building’s brick structural shell.
Etienne found himself reflecting on his past travels to Japan, where he’d often visit to practice silent meditation in Buddhist monasteries. During his trips he’d go to traditional teahouses and inns, otherwise known as ryokans, to “study the emptiness in Japanese traditional architecture”.
He also drew reference from the minimalist chapels designed by Dom Hans van der Laan, a Dutch Benedictine monk and architect.
Still Room, therefore, hosts just a couple of timber-framed volumes that have been loosely washed with a bespoke cork-lime plaster. Etienne said that he and the Studio Corkinho team worked “like alchemists” for six months to find the right surface finish.
“I wanted to understand the impact of natural light on the selected textures, and witness how the light from different times and seasons would interact with the space,” Etienne explained.
One of the volumes frames Still Room’s entrance, while the other accommodates a low-lying bed. The base of the bed is made up of blocks of burnt cork, a material which the studio thought would foster a feeling of warmth within the space.
Sisal that’s been dyed a similarly dark shade of brown has been used to line the floor. A linen craftsman was also brought on board to chalk-dye the room’s curtains, giving them the same heavy, matt appearance as curtains seen in old cloisters.
A desk has been slotted beneath the large arched window that fronts Still Room. It’s accompanied by a couple of brown leather chairs and cork ornaments from Studio Corkinho’s own collection of design pieces.
Stacked underneath is a selection of books about silent meditation and sacred architecture.
Studio Corkinho currently invites individuals to use Still Room, but the space is also for yoga workshops, Japanese-style tea ceremonies and as a study room for architecture students of the University of Antwerp.
“Whether used as a study room, a contemplative space or as a place to enjoy a moment without input, the Still Room enables a ‘shelter for the mind’ for the modern human to anchor his attention in the present time and space,” concluded the studio.
September of this year saw the opening of another silent retreat called The Olive Houses, which is specifically designed for creatives who want a place to work without interruption.
The retreat is hidden up in Mallorca’s Tramuntana mountains and includes two small cabins – one for sleeping, one for dining – which are completely off-grid.
Photography is by Piet-Albert Goethals.
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