Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Stille: The Art of Being Silent

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posted on 2021-11-10, 22:36 authored by Macann, Emma

This thesis discusses the importance for people within the confines of high-density, metropolitan cities to find a collective moment of retreat through an architectural landscape of silence. Silence is becoming a desired and yet difficult to obtain commodity in modern western society. Due to intensified work and home commitments combined with overwhelming sensory manipulation in the urban environment, stress and psychological overloading is common. Stress and psychological overloading is problematic with regards to a sense of connectivity to other people. With constant sensory onslaught it is becoming increasingly important to create moments of stillness, which in the course of controlling and manipulating external stimuli allows for mental and physical retreat through contemplation. Historically places of silence and contemplation in western urban settings were places of worship. These spaces are designed to encourage groups of people to congregate and experience internal reflection while establishing a sense of togetherness. As western society moves towards secularisation, finding moments of silence collectively becomes even more significant in harvesting and maintaining a sense of belonging. Through referencing Juhani Pallasmaa and philosopher Max Picard an in-depth exploration into sensory design and what silence embodies is established. This, in combination with a critique of the detrimental current situation in modern society, asserts reasons for the need to revert to simplified sensory experiences in order to increase personal awareness of self and others. Nature and its pivotal role in stimulating a sense of silence is investigated through current theory and personal design explorations. This research is reinforced by case studies into successful modern places of retreat, for example Dominique Perrault’s Bibliothéque Nationale de France. Such schemes are used to understand notions of ritual and removal within a city setting. By incorporating silence (both visually and aurally) into an everyday city park in London, opportunities are created for the wider public to encounter and benefit from Stille.(1)   (1) — German: English translation is Silence


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Campays, Philippe