Gustavian Inspirations from Rock carved spaces

Its important in any kind of design whether Swedish Gustavian, modern,esoteric or traditional to open your mind to the widest range of sources for ideas and themes.

That way you keep fresh and allow all the new influences you find to cross fertilise in your designs and room settings. It also shows you how the links in design philosphy that flow back from the present through history. It important to have perspective!

Of course from a Swedish Gustavian viewpoint, there is a direct link back to the Renaissance in terms of the ideas and elements they drew on to create the Gustavian style in the late 1700s and thence back to Roman design. A common design vocabulary that so many western traditions including the Gustavian one share and draw upon intentionally or otherwise.

Here's a perfect example of an inspiration:

aubeterre france aubeterre france image © Aubeterre sur Dronne

We visited the beautiful village of Aubeterre in the Charentes district of France to visit the fantastic sunday market, sip Rose  and generally enjoy the atmosphere. Its beautiful and almost feels provencal in tone. It also hosts a very unusual secret.

Just down from the marketplace, you find the hidden church of Saint Jean quarried out of the living rock of the hills surrounding Aubeterre in the 12th century.

Its a huge and impressive space over 20m high and over 400 square metres in size.

st jean aubeterre monolithic church st jean aubeterre monolithic church

 

It was created by Benedictine monks and is an incredible sacred space with the high vaulted ceilings carved out the rock and ionic columns (familiar from Roman architecture) and detailed hand carving. There's also a very early christian baptismal pool dating from perhaps the 4th century.

As usual, with many Christian sites, they had really supplanted and embellished a pre christian place of worship which had a hidden necropolis with over 80 graves hewn from the rock floor that was only discovered by accident in 1961.

It quite takes your breath away - and any student of later design will see echoes of now familiar shapes and silhouettes including those of Gustavian Design.

st jean aubettere font st jean aubettere font

 

Heres the huge soaring 20m columns again hewn straight of of the Rock

st jean aubeterre columns and gallery st jean aubeterre columns and gallery

 

You can also see the high gallery that overlooks the main floor area from 2 sides reached by a windy slim staircase again cut from the rock wall - a bit nerve racking to look down I will tell you.

The whole monolithic church is very cleverly lit as well so you get some wonderful shadows, shapes and a wide palette of very interesting colours to give you ideas for your design projects - greens, blues, ochres.

gallery in st jean aubeterre gallery in st jean aubeterre

This is the gallery about 100 feet off the ground or more - no health and safety stuff  in france you'll notice! So watch your step.

Finally here's a very early Cross thats been cut into the wall, long before the main part of the monolithic church had been excavated by the Benedictines.

IMG_5693_2

Its all a bit Indiana Jones really and is an experience I would recommend to anyone in that area of France.

So I hope you can see why its important to draw influences from everywhere whether they are ideas for lighting, marbling textures for walls, use of shapes and columns, open space etc

Jo Lee is Director of Swedish Interior Design

 

 

 

 

 

 

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