Rites are in time, what home is in space
For this project, Sarah Van Marcke stayed at monasteries by Dutch monk and architect Dom Hans Van der Laan.
The Benedictine monk and architect spent years searching for the essence of architecture. He worked steadily on
a system of measures and propor-ons he eventually named ‘Plastic Number’. The ‘Plastic Number’ is a threedimensional
system based on an instinctive sense of small, medium and large. Height, width and depth of all
components - windows, columns, walls and wall planes as well as the intervening spaces - are determined by
this proportional system.
Van der Laan’s extensive mathematical and objective approach leads to austere, balanced and very powerful
buildings. Even the interiors and furniture are made in his mathematical state of mind and are free from all
forms of decoration or fashionable trends. The spaces are almost ascetic, without details. Robust blocks and
rough, unfinished concrete walls result in timeless spaces where visitors are invited to contemplate.
In her images Sarah Van Marcke approaches the work of Van der Laan exactly from this point of view. The
monumental and timeless spaces are emphasized by the balanced composition and the soft light Sarah uses.
But what she adds are subtle movements, displacements within this rigorous architecture. The small actions
captured by Sarah show her vision on the architect and his work.
In an image of a balanced and massive architectural space, with a pair of black shoes standing next to a
staircase Sarah plays with the omnipresent and extensive theory of Van der Laan, who literary designed
everything in the monasteries, even the clothes of the inhabitants. Based on an existing portrait of Van de Laan
Sarah plays with the suggestion of the presence of the deceased architect. With the same contradiction
(presence versus absence) Sarah made different portraits of the architect while working or posing for a picture
based on existing footage found in his archive.
Caroline Voet, architect