The House of Spiritual Retreat by Emilio Ambasz
by Emilio Ambasz & Associates, Inc.
Designed in 1975, The House of Spiritual Retreat, that has been thought to be for some, a minimalist idea, and for others a deconstructionist fable, is, instead, an unclassifiable statement about architectural essentials.
With this project Emilio Ambasz sought to go back to the origins of architecture. In one of his writings Ambasz stated “The only thing to stand was the façade, which would be like a mask–a surrogate for architecture. You might say that by this device I rhetorically sought to re-examine architecture as a culturally-conditioned process and return to the primeval notion of the abode.”
Emblematic of his oeuvre, this house resumes Ambasz’ search for “an architectural vocabulary outside the canonical tradition of architecture.” Expanding on his intents he stated “It is an architecture that is both here and not here. With it I hope to place the user in a new state of existence, a celebration of human majesty, thought, and sensation. Though apparently quite new, there are devices–both primitive and ancient–permeating this design.” The result is a building that seems to stand for the essence of architecture.
Presented in 1975, using drawings and model photography on account of contractual restrictions, this project has won innumerable architectural awards, among these Progressive Architecture First Award and an AIA award. It foretold of Ambasz’ pioneering work seeking to reconcile architecture with nature. Faithful to his conviction that “a building should return to the community in the form of garden, accessible to the community, all the land the building has covered,” Ambasz’ “green buildings”, integrating garden and building into one inseparable entity, have been the precursors of a whole movement towards an energy efficient architecture. But what engages the mind in Ambasz’ work is the fact that it reflects his deep seated conviction that “architecture is an act of the imagination. I believe that the real task of architecture begins once functional and behavioral needs have been satisfied. It is not hunger, but love and fear, and sometimes wonder, which make us create. The architect’s cultural and social context changes constantly but his task, I believe, remains always the same: to give poetic form to pragmatic needs.”