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| the architecture of sleep |

October 10, 2008
Exhibition at NAI Maastrich, 29 June- 05 October 2008. State Alpha, on the architecture of sleep is the first in a diptych. The second part, in collaboration with the Delft University of Technology and curated by Dirk van de Heuvel, will open at the end of October under the title Changing Ideals.

Parisian homeless (sans-abri), photographed by Bernhard Cella

Providing a shelter for sleep is far from being the exclusive domain of architects. Austrian photographer Bernhard Cella shows us the Parisian sans-abri as amateur architects who arrange their sleeping place and deliberately reckon with the look of passers-by.

Sigmund Freud regarded the dream as the guardian of sleep. The exhibition ‘State Alpha, on the architecture of sleep’ examines to what extent the same is true of architecture. The NAI Maastricht is presenting an exhibition that offers an encyclopaedic approach to the architecture of sleep from many angles. The exhibition aims to stimulate visitors to reflect on how architecture organises our sleep.

Galerie mezzanin, 2006  Photo: Manuel Gorkiewiecz

In the video piece Research for Sleeping Positions (2006) Anna Jermolaewa experiments with a variety of possible sleeping positions on a bench of the type of a growing number of public benches constructed so as to prevent people lying down or sleeping. The bench in the video is located at Vienna’s Westbahnhof, the place where in 1989 Jermolaewa spent her first week as a refugee in the West.

In 2008 the NAI Maastricht is sketching longer lines at the interface of architecture and design, with the interior as the common thread. After a solo exhibition on the monk and architect Dom Van der Laan and the quest for an inner spiritual world, this time the theme of sleep is explored as a more psychological inner world, while the exhibition draws on such areas as film and product design to visualise the relation between architecture and that inner world.

Different aspects of sleep are examined in six chapters. Phenomenology of Sleep throws light on sleep, which is still an enigma today, by means of film fragments. Film expert Erik de Kuyper has composed a selection of fragments that show the rituals of falling asleep and getting up within their architectural context. The term Architecture of Sleep is used in medical science to describe the structure of the sleep process. In collaboration with the sleep laboratory of the Charité Clinic in Berlin, this chapter shows different kinds of observation by researchers. The chapter Science of Sleep compares how other (pseudo-scientific) expertises such as Feng Shui deal with sleep and its spatial effect on how we organise our bedrooms.

The chapter entitled Dream House presents a picture of how the market deploys the notion of dream house as a means of seduction. This chapter investigates not only the dream house within the housing market but the house as a symbol in the subconscious. The fifth chapter, Economy of Sleep, focuses on the opposition between sleep as a gift and source of vitality and sleep as a product around which an enormous market has developed – beds, scents, masks, creams, herbs, therapies, medicines… The final chapter, Sleep without Architects, presents several examples that escape the clutches of architecture. By focusing on the position of the homeless and in other ways, this chapter raises the role of architecture and the way in which it organises sleep for discussion.

The concept State Alpha, on the architecture of sleep has been developed by Liquid Frontiers, namely Sabine Dreher and Christian Muhr, in collaboration with Guus Beumer. The exhibition design is by Herman Verkerk. The graphic design is by Experimental Jetset.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 10, 2008 9:15 pm

    What a great idea for a show. One of my all time greatest problems is sleep. I have been through those sleeping labs, done the Feng Shui, its all there.

    And the moral of the story is? Don’t have your desk next to your bed, or you’ll spend more time sleeping than working, and then you’ll have insomnia at night and your whole body clock will be screwed up. Unfortunately my bedroom is my study is my living room with an open plan kitchen to boot. Somebody should have an exhibition in here.

  2. October 11, 2008 3:13 am

    I am wondering if another aspect influencing the architecture of sleep is whether one sleeps alone or with another person. I am reminded of this from reading the section about the ideas of Feng Shui. My good friend Clare painted her bedroom a pale grayish lavender and took everything out of the room except the bed. Her husband was away on a golf trip. When he returned, the first thing he did was to bring the tv back into the room. She was quite upset, as she felt the vibe was so much better with no electronics. Her husband won this one, and I don’t how well she does sleep now, however they have been happily married since 1959. I myself, am surrounded with technology in my bedroom – my laptop is nearly attached to my outstretched legs:)

  3. Charles Dunbar permalink*
    November 12, 2008 11:57 am

    Comment by Charles Dunbar on 10 November 2008 at 5:01am

    Dream as the Guardian of Sleep
    “. . . But I am skeptical about the theory that the dream is a guardian of sleep.
    “It rather looks as if the approach to consciousness has a ‘blotting-out’ effect upon the subliminal contents of the psyche. The subliminal state retains ideas and images at a much lower level of tension than they possess in consciousness. In the subliminal condition they lose clarity of definition: the relations between them are less consequential and more vaguely analogous, less rational and therefore more ‘incomprehensible.’ This can also be observed in all dreamlike conditions, whether due to fatigue, fever, or toxins. But if something happens to endow any of these images with greater tension, they become less subliminal and, as they come close to the threshold of consciousness, more sharply defined.
    “It is from this fact that one may understand why dreams often express themselves as analogies, why one dream image slides into another, and why neither the logic nor the time scale of our waking life seems to apply. The form that dreams take is natural to the unconscious because the material from which they are produced is retained in the subliminal state in precisely this fashion. Dreams do not guard sleep from what Freud called the ‘incompatible wish.’ What he called ‘disguise’ is actually the shape all impulses naturally take in the unconscious. Thus, a dream cannot produce a definite thought. If it begins to do so, it ceases to be a dream because it crosses the threshold of consciousness. That is why dreams seem to skip the very points that are most important to the conscious mind, and seem rather to manifest the ‘fringe of consciousness,’ like the faint gleam of stars during a total eclipse of the sun.”

    The quote above comes from Man and His Symbols, Edited with an Introduction by Carl G. Jung.Carl Jung and others, Dell Publishing: 1968. pp 52-53.

    What is meant by relating the “architecture of sleep” to the idea of the dream as a “guardian of sleep?” If the dream is not the guardian of sleep as Jung argues, architecture still may promote or inhibit sleep. Is there an architecture that protects the sleeping person? Is there an architecture that prevents sleeping or is hostile sleeping? Why is sleeping in public frowned upon in the West? Are there cultures where public sleeping is not objectionable? What exactly is it that is an architecture hostile to public sleeping is trying prevent? Is sleeping so private a matter that it is inappropriate to do it in public?

  4. November 18, 2008 10:58 pm

    On Dreams (1901) Freud maintained that the dream provides a kind of psychical consummation for the wish that has been suppressed by representing it as fulfilled; while it also allows sleep to continue. The function of the dream as a guardian of sleep becomes particularly evident when an external stimulus impinges upon the senses of a sleeper.
    When we go to bed, the curtains are drawn, the lights are turned off and in effect we are attempting to disconnect from our reality by extinguishing all external stimuli. During the night, the mind protects the sleeper from being disturbed by reacting to further external stimuli (noise, temperature, light, the need to urinate, numb arm/leg, pain, etc) as well as all internal stimuli (emotions, fears, dissatisfaction, desires, previous day’s activity) by manufacturing dreams.
    You’ve questioned, “Is there an architecture that prevents sleeping or is hostile sleeping?” I would answer yes. The architecture that doesn’t protect us from the environment: noise, extreme weather conditions, light…

    “Why is sleeping in public frowned upon in the West?” It is interesting that some of the artists in this exhibition chosen to look into sleeping in public.

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