In order to familiarize you with the basic concept of my approach I think it is useful to refer to a famous saying of the seventeenth century French philosopher Pascal, Blaise Pascal, who is known for his lament in his Pensees, the collection of ideas, when he said: 'All the misery of mankind comes from the fact that no-one is able to stay quietly in his own room’. I would like to draw the architectural consequences of this lamento and I would like to demonstrate the implications of this sentence.
I think that what we hear in Pascal’s saying is a projection of what I would like to call a monastic anthropology, and this is important for architects, because the monasteries were the places in European history where, later-on, the so-called individualistic person has been bred. Monasteries are breeders of individuals. And when Pascal carried in his complaint about the incapacity of the human being to stay alone, quietly, silently in a room, he evidently refers to the basic situation of the monastery; because here, for the first time in the history of mankind, a concept of building has been conceived in which a person and a room are brought together in such a way so that the individual becomes, as it were, the kernel of the cell in which he is located. The human being is, as it were, the Zellkern of a room especially designed to contain people who learn the support of divine boredom, which is the very centre of monastic experience.
Excerpt from Peter Sloterdijk’s lecture Inspiration, given at the Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht, Netherlands, 2005.