What are some of the most dramatic interior spaces? by Chris Peters


Therme Vals: This spa in the Graubünden, Switzerland is stunning.  The layered stone suggests an ancient rock quarry that digs deep into sedimentary rock.  The roof floats above the walls, with slits that allow light to creep inside and play against the stone.

Fallingwater:  Notice the 2 large stone slabs in front of the fireplace, rising slightly from the floor. Owner Edgar Kaufmann used to picnic with his family on top of these very boulders – it was one of their favorite spots in the world. When he asked Frank Lloyd Wright to build a house here, Kaufmann imaged a home farther up the hill. Instead he was surprised to find the boulders in the very heart of the house. Genius.

Denver Art Museum: I prefer Frank Gehry’s elegant curves to Daniel Libeskind’s harsh angles, and this museum can feel just as harsh as the pictures suggest.  However, Libeskind does accomplish one masterful trick – in the galleries, all the angled walls recede away from the artwork.  You have the simultaneous feeling of intimacy by standing so close to the art, and yet the space feels unrestricted and open.

Bruder Klaus Chapel: Another masterpiece by Peter Zumthor, this tiny chapel looks like a boring box on the outside, and offers no clue to its interior. Zumthor built a teepee of tree trunks to form the interior, then poured a concrete rectangle around the structure, and finally set the wood inside on fire, leaving the distinctive charred ridges behind. The floor is molten lead.

Exeter Library: The brilliance of Louis Kahn is that he has you enter the building on the ground floor, then climb stairs up into this huge, fantastical room.

Kimball Art Museum: This building is so unassuming you can easily forget it’s genius.  The proportions are perfect, and the attention is drawn to the artwork, not the architecture. The vaulted galleries are split right down the center – a counter-intuitive idea because it weakens the archways considerably. However, Kahn uses these slits along with special reflectors to draw natural light inside and bounce it off the curved ceiling, creating gentle, indirect light that bathes the entire room from above. Many art museums since have copied this design.

Jewish Museum, Berlin: Here, Libeskind’s strong lines are perfectly served.  Throughout the building is a large empty space called “The Void” (seen above) and in only one spot, are you allowed to cross it.  The path ends abruptly, and you are forced to step on thousands of iron faces, symbolizing souls lost to the Holocaust and other wars.  They crunch horribly at every step.

Milwaukee Art Museum: Probably my favorite work by Santiago Calatrava, this building is stunning inside and out.

Cathedral of Toledo, El Transparente: Another space that photos utterly fail to capture, walk behind the main alter of this otherwise average cathedral and you’ll find a masterpiece of baroque art and architecture. You’ll know it when you see it.

Saint Peter’s Basilica: Nothing prepares you for the sheer size of this building. The interior never seems to end, the amount of art borderlines on obscene.

Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba: With 856 columns, this is a man-made candy-cane forest.

Alhambra, Hall of the Abencerrajes: The ceiling here is probably the most beautiful man-made work I have ever seen. These stone carvings seem to shimmer, moving between simple shapes to grand patterns to intense detail, all at the same time. Must be seen at a higher resolution: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fil…

Space Mountain: Just for fun 🙂

What are some of the most dramatic interior spaces?