Stillness & Light: The Silent Eloquence of Shaker Architecture

Stillness & Light: The Silent Eloquence of Shaker Architecture

Stillness & Light: The Silent Eloquence of Shaker Architecture

Stillness & Light: The Silent Eloquence of Shaker Architecture

Synopsis

Shaker buildings have long been admired for their simplicity of design and sturdy craftsmanship, with form always following function. Over the years, their distinctive physical characteristics have invited as much study as imitation. Their clean, unadorned lines have been said to reflect core Shaker beliefs such as honesty, integrity, purity, and perfection. In this book, Henry Plummer focuses on the use of natural light in Shaker architecture, noting that Shaker builders manipulated light not only for practical reasons of illumination but also to sculpt a deliberately spiritual, visual presence within their space. Stillness and Light celebrates this subtly beautiful aspect of Shaker innovation and construction, captured in more than 100 stunning photographs.

Excerpt

To try to come to grips with a subject as elusive yet marvelous as the treatment of daylight in Shaker architecture, I have drawn upon two complementary media —writing and photography. Words examine ideas and thoughts, observations and analyses, about Shaker light, while images present the phenomena themselves, as personally encountered on repeated visits to Shaker sites. It is with this in mind that the photographs in this book are intended not as textual illustrations, but rather to form their own mode of inquiry, one that tries to carefully examine a metaphysical aspect of architecture whose significance lies, to a large extent, beyond the domain of words.

Of course it has been impossible to photograph Shaker architecture as a living culture, for the inhabitants have died out in all but one remaining, yet extraordinary village at Sabbathday Lake, Maine. Nevertheless, the Shakers still speak through the spaces they made, and through the light that continues to grace their buildings. The restored Shaker villages surviving today no longer represent precisely how spaces appeared when their communities were active, but, as my subject is neither the material culture nor daily lives of Shakers, these exquisite shells—still possessing that “indescribable air of purity” and “shining with the brilliancy of reflected light” that were observed in them two centuries ago—offer ideal settings in which to explore the quality and play of natural light as it alters the look of Shaker space.

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