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The Krishnamurti Centre

Krisnamurti Centre

"This place must be of great beauty with trees, birds and quietness, for beauty is truth and truth is goodness and love. The external beauty, external tranquillity, silence, may affect the inner tranquillity, but the environment must in no way influence the inner beauty. Beauty can only be when the self is not."

J. Krishnamurti

The Buildings of the Krishnamurti Centre

Spiritual Architecture

Article by Elizabeth Ningres, former Brockwood Park School student.

"Architecture is the one art which affects us all. People can choose not to listen to music or to look at sculpture, to visit theatres and cinemas, but the buildings around us shape everyone's world." John Lane

Living at Brockwood, surrounded by magnificent buildings and landscape, I have come to see how architecture can affect one's life. This year during my art course I became interested in the way buildings are conceived and built. I was fortunate to meet Keith Critchlow, one of the foremost architects of sacred geometry, and designer of the Krishnamurti Centre.

In nature we find patterns, designs and structures that inevitable follow geometric archetypes. Life as we know it is inextricably interwoven with geometric forms, from the angles of atomic bonds in molecules of amino acids, to the helix of DNA and the spherical prototype of the cell. The lattice patterns of crystal follow a geometry unfaltering in its exactitude. Harmony and proportion seem to be the fundamental laws which govern the grand cosmic order. If geometry is found in so many aspects of the universe, then it is logical to conclude that its use in architectural design will provide an extension from the harmonious, rhythmic order of the universe to the architectural artefact. There was a time, which lasted for thousands of years, in which geometry was the principle occupation of sages, philosophers, and theologians.

"If we see the majority of modern high-rises, looking like filing cabinets, that is exactly what they express: they are very efficient at filing human beings and filing objects and filing technology, but they have very little to do with the fuller or meaningful dimensions of being human. They are really mechanistic solutions to mechanistic questions." Keith Critchlow

Architecture, as it is normally practised today, is very much a matter of subjective judgement and whim, largely ruled by fashion. In the past, however, architecture, and the principles which gave it order and form, were inseparably linked to the natural world. For example, the architecture of the Orthodox Church conforms to the principles of 'divine proportion' to make visible the aspects of spiritual truth which cannot be perceived consciously. A non-verbal language of visual semantics uses form, space, light, and colour to enter into and participate in the divine order and allow divine revelation to penetrate into one's being. India's Vastu Sastra is possibly the oldest known architectural treatise, traceable to at least the year 3000BC. In it the relationship of objects with one another and space includes higher entities said to be in charge of various aspects of universal affairs.

Architect Keith Critchlow, perhaps the best-known advocate of the theory of sacred architectural principles, taught for many years at the Architectural Association and is currently at the Royal College of Art. He asserts: "There is within the spiritual universe of Islam a dimension which may be called 'Abrahamic Pythagoreanism', or a way of seeing numbers and figures as keys to the structure of the cosmos and as symbols of the archetypal worlds and also a world which is viewed as the creation of God in the sense of Abrahamic monotheisms". Critchlow's designs involve 'integral geometry', which work in three dimensions of space and one of time.

Critchlow designed the Krishnamurti Study Centre as a place where people could meet to study Krishnamurti's teachings, and find space in which to grow spiritually without the encumbrance of the formal religions. In his concept for the building, Krishnamurti emphasised the importance of the Quiet Room:

"There must be a room where you go to be quiet. This room should be used for that and not for anything else. It should be like a fountain filling the whole place. That room should be the central flame; it is like a furnace that heats the whole place. If you don't have that, the Centre becomes just a passage, people coming and going, work and activity."

Critchlow dreamed of a person seated cross-legged on the ground in meditation, a concept upon which he was later to base his composition. When Critchlow, in keeping with traditional practice, asked for a phrase to guide the building's design Krishnamurti responded: "The world is you, and you are the world", an aphorism that not only corroborated the image of the seated person, but suggested the ancient idea of the integration of transcendent and immanent reality.

Critchlow's design is built around the Quiet Room as the hub of the composition with a harmonious lucidity of interlocking, open spaces. Light penetrates wherever possible, and windows are placed so as to make the building seem transparent, without resorting to scale-less window walls. The real importance of space is that it represents the spirit, and the building itself is like the body, confined to space and in a perpetual process of decay. The building, however, is like a musical instrument 'played' by the light, wherein the precise proportions and dispositions of the elements determine the timbre of the 'music'. The emphasis of geometry places the Krishnamurti Centre in the tradition of what Christopher Alexander has termed 'timeless building' and it has been featured in Prince Charles's book Vision of Britain.

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