Project: Werkplaats van de Stilte
Organisation: Studio Zonder Titel, Eindhoven - NL
Moderator: Liesbeth Huybrechts, Niels Hendriks, Thomas Laureyssens
In a time of changes, where people are being flooded by information, duties and ambitions, Studio Zonder Titel pleas for simplicity. Studio Zonder Titel is a studio for information and project- and relation management. The studio questions organizations to discover, shape and carry out their own vision and trademark using communication in the most direct form. Werkplaats van de Stilte is a series of design researches into re-using religious heritage based on contemporary forms of reflection, inspiration and creativity. Several meetings will lead to new ideas for a design of a working place for silence and contemplation in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Werkplaats van de Stilte is a collaboration between Studio Zonder Titel and YourSpace, La Citta Mobile, IaDea Creative Solutions and ESK/ T!NT. For more information, see: http://www.studiozondertitel.nl/.
On Saturday 4th of September, the research group Social Spaces was invited to organize a mapping session for Studio Zonder Titel in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The participants were asked to think about questions such as: what does silence mean for you? What connects silence with creativity? And how to incorporate silence into a concrete space? This resulted in the three groups designing a ‘working place for silence’.
The mapping session in Eindhoven consisted of four rounds. There were three groups, each lead by a moderator who facilitated the session. In the first round of the session, the group had to indicate the key values, key people and important spaces, knowledge and tools that they wanted to include in their working place for silence. The first round ended by locking three things that the group found the most important on their map. In the second round, the map and a presenter (one of the participants of the group) switched places with the map and the presenter of one of the other groups. The other group had to bomb the elements of the map that they didn’t like or didn’t agree with and think of possible opportunities, chances or alternatives for the elements they had just bombed. In next round, the participants of the third group had to bomb the map of the first group and find possible opportunities again. In the final round, the presenters switched tables again and the participants of this group had to point out three things that they really liked about the map of the other group. Finally, the groups joined each other and the presenters presented the three maps.
The first group put only one (but very important) key value onto the compass: awareness. This group’s aim for silence was expressed through the architecture of the working place. The participants found it very important that someone who entered the space could immediately sense the silence. They also thought that the focus of the space should be light (or a light source). On their map, the light functioned as a source of inspiration. Physically, this inspiration is brought about by the windows that the group placed on the map. Through the windows, light shone from the outside to the inside and gave the visitors of the space an opportunity to look at the horizon. The place to meditate (in silence) was also situated near a window (and near trees that can provide a person with cover and shelter). Another important element on this group’s map (which caused some controversy amongst the other groups) was the entrance of the working place. This group found it important that there would be some sort of transition rite a visitor should go through when entering the building. The transition rite that this group imagined could take many forms. For example, it could be built in into the architecture or there could be an actual person – or host(ess) – to welcome the visitor into the building. However, the other groups were not so sure about this host(ess). They were scared that a host(ess) would prevent the visitor to roam the space freely. The other groups placed several bombs on the entrance of the working place: they called it a challenge to make the visitor aware of the silence in the space as he/she enters the room. Some art works and plants were also placed in the space, but the other groups bombed the plants arguing that they found them silly. The trees and nature in the other space were left untouched. Everyone found it important to create a natural environment that spoke to all the senses.
The participants of the second group put “accessible” or “susceptible” in the middle of their compass. They considered this value to be a basic condition for experiencing silence and creating creativity. They did not think about space in an architectonical way but thought of it as a condition to enable silence and creativity (both physically inside and outside oneself). Time was also an important element on their map; the other groups agreed on this. They considered time as the restriction of silence, not space. They wanted to give the visitors an opportunity to experience silence together (by making music for example) at a specific moment and then – an hour later – to meditate and experience silence by him/her self. The other group suggested the presence of a host(ess) to tell the visitor to be quiet and experience silence. However, they group did not like this so they bombed the host(ess) again. It should be the space itself that leads to silence. This group put three points of focus in their space: fire, water and light. Fire was the first thing the visitor approached as he/she entered the space; it symbolized warmth. The specific place for water had a dome over it (through which light came into the space The light was particularly symbolized by the view the visitor has on the outside world but was also indicated by music and works of art. Further, this group demolished some walls and put in windows (looking out on the courtyard) with here and there some leaded light glass in them. The experience of nature was an important element here. The possibility to walk freely into nature and back into the space again was of great significance to the group. It was also important that the visitor could choose if he/she wanted to experience the silence individually or together with others. Finally, the group introduced a “blob” of silence: a small space in which the visitor could float, meditate and experience silence by himself (and which was bombed by the other group).
The central focus of the third group’s map was the experience of and the search for silence. They found it important that the visitors of the space communicated with each other and shared their experiences with silence. Therefore, openness was very important. No one should be excluded from the space. A way of sharing or communicating with each other was by means of modern technology. The group also included a communal space where people could get together in silence. People should be enabled to meet each other, preferably over food and drinks. This can also take place in silence. The group discussed on how to eat in silence and whether this was even possible. The other groups found it “a bit too much” and experienced troubles with the “get-togethers”, but the group commented that as long as silence was the central focus of the space, everything should work out just fine. Again, nature played a significant role: this group included a greenhouse, a patio or a garden to experience silence outside. Inside, silence could take the form of pictures hanging on the walls, concerts or special kinds of music. The group also saw the need for inviting experts in silence (such as teachers) into the space. All these activities (sometimes conflicting with one another) should be dispersed over time. There should also be a facilitator, someone who has a central role and makes all the activities possible. The working place of silence that this group created also included a vegetable garden, where the visitor could grow his/her vegetables.
After the three presentations of the groups, Liesbeth summarized the important points of the day’s mapping in a final presentation. She explained how entering the room (stepping over a threshold) appeared to be of great significance. The question whether the working place of silence should be an open or a closed place played an important in this. The removal of walls (and replacing them with windows) indicated that the participants of the mapping saw a need for connectedness with the outside world. A focus appeared to be very important as well: that focus could take the form of warmth and light – things that stimulated the senses – or the form of materials such as floors, fabrics, etc. The visitors of the space created a sort of tension, which was not exactly solved during the mapping. The participants wondered whether silence needed to be experienced alone or together. One of the groups proposed to solve this issue in time. Another problem that arose during the mapping was that one needs to be tempted to experience silence instead of being forced to it. The organizer of the mapping commented that the first to groups literally interpreted silence as “no sound”, while the other group also focused on the interactive part of silence (although the groups did not agreed on this entirely).
The project Werkplaats van de Stilte organizes several working sessions with people who are interested in the subject matter. These sessions are focused on discussing and working on themes such as the relation between art and religion and the definition of silence. The mapping that research group Social Spaces did together with Studio zonder Titel is one of these working sessions. Together with the other three working sessions and a qualitative research on the experience of silence among youth, it will lead to the development of several concepts for a prototype of a working place for silence. Studio zonder Titel has also written a report on the mapping session, which can be found here: http://www.studiozondertitel.nl/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/VerslagWerkplaats3.pdf.