Following Calvino’s scheme, I could leave my sixth theme as a mere title, particularly since I have earlier written extensively about an architecture of silence, but I shall, however, add a few concluding notes on my last theme.(7)
'Nothing has changed man's nature so much as the loss of silence,' writes the Swiss philosopher Max Picard.(8) 'Poetry grows out of silence and thrusts for silence.' Picard concludes his thought-provoking book The World of Silence with Kierkegaard's instruction: 'Create silence'.
All great art is engaged in silence. The silence of art is not mere absence of sound, but an independent sensory and mental state, an observing, listening and knowing silence. It is a silence that evokes a sense of melancholy and a yearning for the absent ideal. Also great architecture evokes silence. Experiencing a building is not only a matter of looking at its space, forms and surfaces — it is also a matter of listening to its characteristic silence. And every great architectural work has its unique silence.
A powerful architectural experience eliminates noise and turns my consciousness to myself; I only hear my own heartbeat. The innate silence of an experience of architecture results, it seems, from the fact that it turns our attention to our own existence — I find myself listening to my own being.
The task of architecture is to create, maintain and protect silence. Great architecture is silence turned into matter, it is petrified silence. As the thunder and clatter of construction has faded, as the shouting of workers has ceased, the building turns into a timeless monument of silence. And what a faithfulness and patience can be felt in the great works of architecture!
In architecture today we yearn for an expression that aims at the spontaneity and authenticity of the individual experience. We yearn for an architecture that rejects noise, efficiency and fashion, an architecture that does not aspire after the dramatic, but rather aims at lyricising the real things of everyday life. We yearn for radical ordinariness, a natural architecture, of the kind that fills our mind with good feeling when we enter a peasant cottage. We need an ascetic, concentrative and contemplative architecture, an architecture of silence.
-Juhani Pallasmaa, “Six Themes for the Next Millennium”