Then we headed to La Tourette, the monastery by Le Corbusier. As soon as we arrived, we could tell that he was the architect. His 5 tenants on modern architecture were very apparent in the building- the long ribbon windows, the building set up on pilotis, the roof garden (which was off limits to visitors), the free plan and the free facade.
It is an active monastery, too. The monks hold lauds and vespers services daily, along with a midday mass. The building was designed when there were 100 monks in residence, but sadly that number has dwindled to ten grey haired men. There are support staff who cook and clean, and then people who work the front desk and arrange tours and visits for groups like us. There were some rules we were asked to respect during our stay- the residential floors were silent areas (because concrete absorbs and carries sound very well, even a whisper can be heard down the hall), meal times were to be prompt, and no eating in your cell (which I broke).
The view from the hallway balcony
There were concerns about the silence aspect of the monastery before we went. We heard through the grapevine that we would be taking a vow of silence, and would have to be silent ALL THE TIME. Luckily, that was not the case. But it makes sense to be quiet on the residential levels. The monks spend most of their time entertaining guests who come to the monastery (and by entertaining I mean eating lunch with), and their rooms are their respite. Breaking that sanctuary of theirs is rude, so it makes sense on the level of respect. But also, the entire building is made of concrete. Floors, walls, ceilings. And concrete reflects sound very easily, so you can be heard through the whole building. Keeping quiet is just the respectful thing to do, the least disturbing. After all, we were guests in THEIR monastery.
The residential hallway
Public library area
And the dining room!
It was SUCH a good visit. I spent three days in my monk cell, drawing and sketching and standing on my balcony and walking. I walked around the building, I walked down to the town, I walked around the monastery, I walked in the woods, I just let my feet do the steering. It was so liberating to have nowhere to be and to be in charge of what I wanted to see. I had meals to be at, but other than that, the day was my own. I collected chestnuts and corn cobs from the woods and a cornfield, and I watched the leaves change color.
The woods and the fields
And the corn field!
I spent Tuesday morning drawing a killer drawing of the Lyon Opera House, and I spent the afternoon walking around the building. I sketched a few windows and hallways, and a view of the courtyard from a balcony. And on Wednesday, I took more photos of the building (after realizing I'd only taken about 12) and sketched the scuppers and downspouts, the pilotis and supports, and some stairs.
My birthday was on Wednesday, and everyone made it feel very special. People got me flowers, beers, tiny pumpkins, and my professor even got me some tasty pastries from town. Greg arranged a special birthday yoga class too, which kicked my butt. But I got to be boss lady of Kitty Land that day, which was the best feeling ever :)
An out of focus photo of my birthday presents, and my birthday sweets!
Our time at La Tourette ended on Thursday. We drove back to Lyon to visit a train station by Calatrava on our way to Geneva and Lausanne. The train station was impressive, as most of Calatrava's works are. I did some quick structural sketches, trying to understand the beam system in the station.
In Geneva, we were shown around by the former dean of the Architecture School and taken to an early Le Corbusier apartment building. We were very lucky to have a colleague of his who lived in the building with us, and even more lucky to have a friendly tenant who let us into his apartment.
Then we walked to the lake, where I saw a black swan and Geneva's super huge fake geysir thing. Pales in comparison to Strokkur in Iceland, but whatever.
And finally we hit the road to Lausanne! We are now back in Switzerland for a few days before heading to Italy and the final leg of our trip! Can you believe it's been 8 whole weeks of mostly every other day blogging? You're welcome.