Photographer Alicja Dobrucka just lately stayed at and photographed Sainte Marie de La Tourette, the 1960s Dominican convent near Lyon, France, designed by Le Corbusier. We spoke to Dobrucka about her trip to the creating that “appears and feels really much like a Baroque bunker” (+ slideshow + interview).
“What I wanted to capture was the austerity of the developing, but also the playful organisation of area, which I identified seductive,” said the Polish photographer, who stayed in one particular of the convent’s one hundred cells.
“I was completely taken aback by the framework, and how random and eccentric it actually is,” she extra. “There have been many minor surprising information, like the curved rooftop of the staircase or the totally free-type concrete flowerpots.”
Le Corbusier worked with architect and avant-garde musician Iannis Xenakis on the style of the hilltop Couvent Sainte Marie de La Tourette, which was constructed amongst 1956 and 1960 and which is deemed a masterpiece of late Modernism.
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But shortly following completion, the Dominicans decided to base most of their friars in the local community, meaning that nowadays the convent’s cells are occupied by pilgrims, college students and architecture devotees.
Dobrucka, who has previously worked on projects such as a series of pictures of Mumbai’s mushrooming skyscrapers, visited the convent with no preconceptions but was shocked by its idiosyncrasies and the way the architect handled light.
“I feel there is a huge gap amongst what Le Corbusier says and what his buildings do,” she informed Dezeen. “The formal inventions are very playful and contradict the cliché that type follows perform.”
Read the transcript from our interview with Dobrucka:
Marcus Fairs: Why did you pick to photograph La Tourette?
Alicja Dobrucka: Funnily sufficient the first notion was to have a retreat in the monastery. I desired to familiarise myself with Le Corbusier’s language in planning for photographing his operate in Chandigarh in India that I intend to check out this summer.
Marcus Fairs: What was your impression of the spot?
Alicja Dobrucka: It appears and feels really much like a baroque bunker. Le Corbusier even refer to it as an Assyrian fortress – I presume which is mainly because of the modest windows. It is a huge construction with at least one hundred cells, a church, a crypt, a library and meeting rooms, and a massive kitchen to put together modest meals.
The combinations of plain colors – red, green, yellow, blue and black – are the colors of floors, doors, and even pipes. It feels as if Le Corbusier made a collage of various spatial ideas as to what the structure must be and employed them all. Iannis Xenakis made the windows that resemble musical scores. The cloister is not on the ground but on the roof, but this meditative walk is jealously reserved for the Dominicans only.
The Dominicans altered their mind when the monastery was created and determined to reside amongst the neighborhood so at the minute there are only ten of them residing in the building. Now the place is utilised for exhibitions, concerts and seminars, mixing cultural activities with religious ones. You have to be really quiet in the residential ones. The sound in the church is wonderful any whisper carries all via the area. Also the snoring of one particular of the pilgrims carried above to my cell.
Marcus Fairs: Describe the journey to the monastery. Is it easy to get to?
Alicja Dobrucka: There are couple of methods to reach the monastery. You can fly to Lyon and consider a bus or drive. I booked a cell in the monastery itself.
I arrived late, right after the reception hrs. There was a letter pinned to the door with my title on it. It stated the area and the quantity of my cell as effectively as the code for the front door. After a swift glimpse at the letter I opened the door and was grabbed by a Dominican asking whether I was the late guest. He lead me to the dining room.
There had been four huge square tables about which had been sitting the priests, the retreat visitors as effectively as some students who came to prepare for their Baccalauréat. The meal was straightforward, anything that looked like huge meatballs with rice and salad. Red table wine was also served. In contrast to the visitors, the fathers and brothers did not drink considerably of it.
The style and proportion of each and every cell is the exact same as the tiny hotel rooms at La Cité Radieuse in Marseille. The cell I stayed in was surprisingly cozy. It was lengthy and narrow, with a green floor and white walls manufactured of thick rendering that recalled the interior of a grotto. On the door of my space have been pinned the residence principles: do not invite anybody in your cell, do not carry food or drinks, and do not have conversations in the corridors.
There was a sink on the left hand side just by the entrance and a set of shelves and wardrobe, behind which there was a single bed. A table was by the window and the room ended with a little balcony. There was a prolonged rectangular aperture the length of the door that you could close with a wooden shutter. When it was open, you could see into the corridor and folks strolling by could catch a glimpse of the side of the room.
Marcus Fairs: What was it like to photograph?
Alicja Dobrucka: I was totally taken aback by the construction, and how random and eccentric it in fact is. Certain components of the creating I kept coming back to – like what Le Corbusier named the light guns, that let the light to access the church. The intensity and course of light would alter the perception of the volumes in the church. Somehow photographing the developing permitted me to comprehend it.
Brother Marc Chauveau, who has curated an exhibitions of the monochrome painter Alan Charlton and who is preparing an additional with Anish Kapoor, commented upon how the creating had been represented by means of photography: if the early photographers strived to current a basic view, later on photographers emphasis on the details of the architecture and how it is transformed by light and shadow.
Marcus Fairs: Was it what you expected?
Alicja Dobrucka: I came there with no expectations. I just needed to really feel the framework and therefore made the decision to keep in it. The constructing stored on modifying depending on the light. I believed that the outside of the creating came to daily life in the evening and the inside of the creating came to lifestyle during the day.
I actually loved the large and blank concrete walls and they were crucial for me to be in the series. I feel that what I wanted to capture was the austerity of the creating, but also the playful organisation of room, which I found seductive. There were many little surprising specifics, like the curved rooftop of the staircase or the free-form concrete flowerpots.
Marcus Fairs: Was this a commission or a self-initiated project?
Alicja Dobrucka: It was a self-initiated task. I could really go back one particular day to photograph the other parts of the developing that are not accessible to site visitors, like the rooftop cloisters. It is nevertheless quite significantly a perform in progress and it could properly become a part of a considerably bigger series, which could be mixed with other images I will have taken of other Le Corbusier’s buildings.
Marcus Fairs: Have you photographed any of his other buildings?
Alicja Dobrucka: This was the very first time I have visited any of his structures. On this trip I also visited the little home he constructed for his parents in Corseaux up coming to Lake Léman, where he also included a area with separate entry for himself and his wife, with bunk beds.
Why have single beds, just like in a monastery? Is this linked to a puritan perform ethic? This single-bed obsession is continued in his cabanon at Cap Martin as nicely as in the camping huts that he developed there.
Marcus Fairs: What are his buildings like to photograph in contrast to individuals of other architects?
Alicja Dobrucka: I consider there is a huge gap between what Le Corbusier says and what his buildings do. The formal inventions are incredibly playful and contradict the cliché that type follows function.
Marcus Fairs: What is your technique to architectural photography?
Alicja Dobrucka: To steer clear of carrying out architectural photography!