23 October 2015

Freitag, 23 Oktober 2015


And I don't mean the final frontier. I think I mean the kind of thought about buildings and place that John King delights us with in the San Francisco Chronicle.  We visited two spaces today that are similar in some respects, but vastly different in others.

After breakfast, we bundle up - it looks like it might rain.  We make our way to the Hauptbahnhof in order to catch the Schnellbahn to Schloß Nymphenburg, the suburban palace of the Bavarian kings. On the way there, however, Arthur treats me to something very special, Herz Jesu Kirche. In a nice upper class neighborhood, with buildings from around the first part of the last century, stands this starkly modern church. We wandered around it fascinated with its architecture and sense of space, and I will talk about that more later. We met and Indian architectural student, Jadip, who was on a quest there as well. We talked briefly about his studies, this particular building, and then advised him to go to the new Jewish Synagogue at Jakobsplatz. He knew of it and was planning on going there.

In a way, it's a similar kind of experiment about space and place as is Herz Jesu Kirche. I keep getting  ahead of myself, however. Our goal is the Schloß, and one approaches it by a rather long allée, the center of which is canal that directs the eye to the Schloß and the buildings that embrace it. Like Versailles, the approach is a bit pedestrian (pun intended) with the real beauty evident once you have breached the enclosure. Once you get in, you see the beauty of the gardens beyond. Not all that they contain is available today, so we will have to satisfy ourselves with the main house. Lunch first at the Orangerie, called Palmenhaus. Not so good. After lunch we avail ourselves of the apartments. The first room you encounter, after mounting a set of stairs intended for servants and underlings, is the Great Hall.

It is grand indeed, and surrounds those who entered it (from formal staircases outside on the east and west side of the building). They would have been drawn in to its grandeur, and immediately would have understand the purpose of the room and its effect. That's one of the things that all of these spaces have in common is that you immediately understand the nature of the space. It is ceremonial. Secondly each of these buildings is embraced while it is embracing the visitor. Herz Jesu Kirche is embraced by an outer skin of glass. The glass is imprinted with what look like cuneiform characters, but upon closer inspection reveal themselves to be nails. The space between the inner room and the outer enclosure serves as an ambulatory, and the stations of the cross are placed there so that one can process through them absent the room.

The Schloß is embraced by the living and ceremonial spaces that surround it, and the Synagogue is embraced by a roughly hewn stone wall (read wailing wall) that serves as a platform/envelope for the glass structure that holds the congregation. In the case of the church, the whole front wall serves as a huge door, that can be opened up to invite in and embrace the congregation. The doors of the synagogue are smaller but serve the same intent - an unmistakable breaching of the wall for a an invitation to the interior.

Each of these places interprets itself to the visitor upon approach and before entry. 

Here are some photos of the church that show attention to detail and design.

The Organ

Station XIV

Holy Water Stoop

I can't wait to hear what my anglo-catholic friends think of this space. In explaining to Arthur its appeal to me, I remembered going to mass at Notre Dame de Paris, and realizing that I couldn't see where the altar was. It was finally indicated to me by the gradual approach of a cloud of incense that wafted into the heights of the church. The space was that in which people and ceremony happened, and one was not distracted by other beauties, but only by this one - people + place. (Enough, Michael!)

We did go see a collection of royal carriages, each one more outrageous than the last. This sled, however, stood out for me - having first encountered it (or something like it) in Visconti's film, Ludwig. Utter magic. And if one thinks that Ludwig II was the only one given over to ostentation, this collection of carriages should serve as a cure for that misconception.

A walk through the neighborhood while waiting for dinner and then a concert brought other delights. The neighborhood was full of colorful ivies and other plants that were a joy. At the end of it all, there was the discovery of a shrine in the wall of what was probably a workroom or stable connected to the Schloß. 

It will be difficult to see, but behind the grill work is an annunciation scene, and a crucifix surmounted by the royal Bavarian arms. Faith and state. Faith and place. At the end of the day, Arthur's pose here represented our state of mind and body.

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