Not a monastery : transposing and interpreting the ancient typology

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Pearce, Emily
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Architecture (Professional)
Unitec Institute of Technology
Schnoor, Christoph
McConchie, Graeme
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
Florence, Italy
Forte Belevedere (Florence, Italy)
Costa San Giorgio (Florence, Italy)
artisan schools
design studios
building adaptation
Lévi-Strauss, Claude (1908-2009)
arts and crafts
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Pearce, E. (2018). Not a monastery : transposing and interpreting the ancient typology. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Architecture (Professional)). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
RESEARCH QUESTION: How can the typology of the European monastery be used as a vehicle to re-assimilate the practice and preservation of authentic Florentine art and crafts into the city of Florence? Monasticism was once one of the dominant forms of political, economic and cultural power in Europe. The social and religious philosophies that a monastic community held were reflected in the architecture of the monastery – its organisation, materiality, spaces, size and its chosen location. While inherently self-sufficient and insular, it was also common for monasteries to carry out charitable practices, often acting as hospitals, orphanages, workshops for monks and accommodation for visiting pilgrims. The city of Florence once was renowned for its world class artisans. Therefore, this research project uses the typology of the monastery as a vehicle to help re-assimilate the practice, preservation and appreciation of authentic Florentine art and crafts. The focus is to design a public arts and crafts school, a place that does not currently exist. The school will support the practice of quintessential Florentine crafts, including paper marbling (carta marmorizzata), book binding (rilegatura) silk weaving (antico setifico fiorentino), marble mosaics (mosaico Fiorentino), imitation marble (scagliola) and engraving (intaglio), all of which require high levels of technical skill and training. An investigation of values, qualities and themes inherent to the typology of the monastery will inform the artisan’s school formal and functional structure. The process of bricolage is used, as perceived by Claude Levi-Strauss, and is supplemented by the theories and analytical techniques of Aldo Rossi and Camillo Sitte. Analytical drawing and modelling is used to deconstruct, modify and reconstruct the critical architectural elements - always within the constraints of the physical context - as demonstrated through the precedents of Louis Kahn’s unbuilt Dominican Motherhouse and Le Corbusier’s monastery, La Tourette. The process of bricolage enables experimentation that brings the unique elements together, harmoniously within the contemporary context. The intention is to design a place that creates a physical dialogue between the public realm and the practice of the artisans. The design will support a creative community that balances the needs of privately focussed studios and collaborative workshops, with public education, display and connection. The final design is not a monastery, but contains inherent traces of this typological parent. Ultimately, the research attempts to show how architectural typologies, through their resilience, can play a catalytic role in the transformation of the contemporary urban realm.
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