The Unknown Hipster

John Pawson’s Monastery of Novy Dvur

Posted in Architecture by unknownhipster on April 12, 2012

On my way to the furniture Salone in Milan, although not the shortest route, I made a meditative stop at Novy Dvur, the iconic minimalist monastery designed by John Pawson in Czech Republic.

Here is a recorded excerpt of the conversation I had with with an anonymous monk :

Me :

–       In 1999, when the news was announced that the minimalist architect John Pawson had designed a Cistercian monastery, I was fascinated

Monk :

–       Do you mean fascinated by the monastic life, or by the minimalist architecture?

–       It is such the perfect match! the architect serves an elevated purpose, and the simple lifestyle of his clients validate the architecture in return.  

–       Isn’t it always like that? Don’t you think it works just the same when an architect designed a lavish house for a celebrity ?

–       I’m amazed that being monks you had the idea to choose John Pawson.

–       One of us had wandered into the Calvin Klein store in New York, which had been designed by John. It was so pure, nothing distracted from the product, it was shopping taken to a religious level. Wouldn’t it make a wonderful monastery, we thought, if we replaced Fashion with God?

–       You must have been a dream client…

–       In fact, unlike Calvin, we had a restricted budget, but this didn’t stop us from having discussions with John.

–       Minimalism is a luxury :  it’s much sought after by those who have everything.

–       Just like us : we have nothing, but we have everything.

–       Did you think of having a fashion designer designing the robes?

–       It wouldn’t be as futile as it seems. Although I’m not sure it would give the same credibility to the designer as it gave to the architect.

–       What about tableware ? Did you have someone designing the plates and bowls ?

–       Are you thinking we are a boutique hotel ?

–       As a matter of fact, you must be constantly disturbed by architecture fanatics and style hunters?

–       We do have people coming in search of a spirituality, which is not always easy to find in all those flagship stores by prominent architects. Some are just looking for ideas to built their own minimalist house. I don’t blame them, although they should just look inside themselves.

–       Would you recommend to those saturated by materialism to do a retreat at Novy Dvur ?

–       Maybe not. They could become obsessed by architecture.


This unreal conversation, translated in Italian, has been published in GCasa, March issue 2012

6 Responses

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  1. Y said, on May 3, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Czechoslovakia formally separated into two completely independent countries in 1993. You were in Czech Republic.

    • unknownhipster said, on July 20, 2012 at 4:56 am

      Dear Zuzana, thank you for reading the Unknown and kindly pointing this error. It’s corrected.

  2. Heather in Arles said, on May 27, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    It strikes me that it has been quite some time since we have heard from the Unknown Hipster. I am hoping that the above comment from “y” has not deterred you from writing further. It happens that at times we don’t always know the current name of the country we are in. For me, Ho Chi Minh Ville is Saigon, Myanmar is Burma…

  3. […] contactado contigo porque últimamente nos cuesta mazo postear. Acabamos de ver que la fecha del último post (que por cierto, lo parte tolrato) de the Unknown Hipster es el 12 de abril. ¿Estás pasando por […]

  4. M.H. Jeeves said, on June 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Hipster- I like very, very much. Obviously, a keen appreciation of architectural essences & a super sensitive ear for the nuances of sacred text at work in this interview. Hope the boutique hotel opens soon. Please- another visit to London soon (after your triumphant coverage of the wedding last year..).

  5. unrequitted said, on June 12, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    mundane to a point of brilliance. Great blog.

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