Internationally acclaimed RIBA award-winning architectural designer John Pawson, creator of the new home of the Design Museum which opens in November 2016, has been commissioned by Living Architecture to create The Life House. The retreat is in a peaceful Welsh Valley, conceived as a space for calm and reflection. Living Architecture commissions leading architects to design houses that are available for the public to rent for holidays and weekends. Past commissions include FAT Architecture and Grayson Perry’s A House for Essex. The Life House is the seventh property, and the first in Wales.
The design of the house, which sleeps six people, is based upon the concept of a retreat where serenity, contemplation and restoration are foremost; a place where a week-long stay will immerse the visitor in a zone of extreme calm and leave them revived and re-invigorated to resume their responsibilities in the world. Guests will be provided with a book produced by John Pawson and Living Architecture on how to go about fundamental everyday rituals whilst enjoying the solitude of The Life House. Included are chapters on conversation and bathing, as well as suggested recipes to cook and music to listen to during the stay.
The building where the retreat unfolds is both simple yet luxurious. It is the result of five years of work by John Pawson, working in conjunction with the philosopher Alain de Botton, and has been deeply influenced by Japanese design and the architecture of the Benedictine monks. The design draws on a variety of ingredients of calm:
- a contemplation chamber buried into the hillside where one is invited to lie down in a blank cavernous zone and purify and train the mind on true essentials.
- an outside contemplation zone enabling the user to repeat the exercise with the Welsh hills as a backdrop.
- a generous living area, large bathrooms, bedrooms, cupboards and common areas allow for both complete privacy and – when it’s desired – sociability and communion.
- a library bedroom, lined with some of the most therapeutic works of eastern and western literature
- a music bedroom, with a suitably powerful music system and a carefully curated selection of transcendent and calming music from all ages and genres.
- a bathing bedroom which provides a room-based bathing platform in which to lie and reassess existence with the help of views onto a Welsh valley
- the house is placed at the nexus of a sequence of walks curated by the artist Hamish Fulton, so that at certain points during the stay, you can invigorate the body in order further to soothe the mind.
The rural retreat has been constructed from over 80,000 handmade Danish bricks. The combination of light and dark-coloured bricks, pale polished concrete floors and Douglas fir timber ceilings, doors and furniture creates an atmosphere of quiet reflection, ideal for escaping the demands of modern life.
Creative Director of Living Architecture Alain De Botton said: “With The Life House, we were looking to reinvent the monastery for a secular modern age; based upon the concept of a retreat; to take us back to the earliest days of Buddhism in the East, and of Stoic philosophy in the West. In both cases, the busy city was held to provide certain opportunities while at the same time, cutting us off from others. Chiefly, the risk is that we will forget to make time for ourselves, and omit to understand our own minds – and our need for calm and perspective.”
John Pawson, designer of The Life House, said: “It has been a pleasure to work with the Living Architecture team on a totally new type of project for me. In this house I wanted to create a modern, secular retreat, where guests can experience the benefits of introspection, solitude and immersion in nature. The location is wonderfully remote and I wanted to create a sanctuary where people feel at home, but never insulated from the elemental character of the surrounding landscape.”