Couvent de La Tourette


“My idea was to document an architecture from within, by slowly experiencing and understanding the space I was living in.
I followed the monks’ daily routine, waking up at dawn, walking the long corridors of the building and hiking in the surrounding nature while I decided not to go to any nearby village for the whole duration of my stay.
The monks’ cell I was sleeping in was less than 12 sq. meters with just a bed, a little desk, an essential wardrobe, a tiny washbasin and a small balcony overlooking the trees of the adjacent woods. Nevertheless everything was perfectly proportioned, according to the principle of the Modulor scale, so that the ‘room’ was a functional and habitable space despite the modest measures and nothing inside was redundant. Breakfast and other meals were served in the same refectory, where the monks were used to sit together, overlooking enormous windows that gave a wide view over the French countryside” (Federico Torra).


“Give the monks what man needs most today: silence and peace. This monastery must not be shown, it must be lived from within”, said Reverend Father Marie-Alain Couturier when asking Le Corbusier to design La Tourette monastery in Eveux-sur-Arbresle. A Dominican friar and Catholic priest, Couturier persuaded the Dominican friars of Lyon to engage the famous architect, and was one of the key figures in giving sacred art a new role in the modern era. At Couvent de La Tourette, time revolves around the pace of contemplation. The monastery is isolated in a small valley, surrounded by the silence of nature, on the eastern mountains of France. Sixty years after its completion in 1960, the monastery still retains the characteristics of a place devoted to meditation and detachment, as strongly desired by Couturier. It espouses the monks’ frugality and discipline, in perfect harmony with the late modernist rationalist and brutalist minimalism of Le Corbusier. Today, the building is home to a few dozen monks, but in the last forty years it has opened up to the world by welcoming non-monks. Architects, curious persons and students who witnessed the monks’ lives – you cannot have contact with the monks – made La Tourette a meeting place for various disciplines related to the humanities and philosophy. Its austere external structure, mostly made of reinforced concrete and large windows, houses a hundred individual cells, a common library, a refectory, a rooftop cloister and a church. The surrounding monastic life, the spare rooms and refectory, the communal bathrooms and the silence pervading La Tourette create an unconventional hospitality experience, in a fertile place for thought and for the rituals of the soul. And you can stay as long as you want.

A special project by Federico Torra, contributing editor Giada Storelli.

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