A Mental Image : Blavatsky Observatory

Sonneveld Huis 2016

The Project A Mental Image by Mexican artist and architect Santiago Borja consists of the installation of a temporary observatory based on theosophical principles on the rooftop of the Sonneveld House. A Mental Image – Blavatsky Observatory is based on Borja’s research into the influence of Western esotericism on the principles of Dutch Functionalism. The observatory, built with traditional roof thatching, is devoted to Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, and will provide a place of contemplation for visitors to the Sonneveld House.

Modern Theosophy represented a cultural potlach, reconciling Christianity with the major religions of the East, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism, and in doing so readmitting the relevance of the spiritual and the non-rational to modern life, while claiming a scientific allegiance. On the other hand, theosophy intended as well to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, where in its democratic and universalist nature there would be no distinction of race, creed, gender, caste or color.

Deriving from the Sonneveld House double condition as an iconic case of Dutch Functionalism and as the work of theosophically inspired architects, A Mental Image highlights the conceptual ambiguities that fed the Modern Movement. This ambivalence, which embraces in part belief and in part pragmatism, created a unified, pure, abstract, decontextualized and universal formal language that, not surprisingly, appealed both to esoteric believers and modern advocates.

The Blavatsky Observatory was conceived through the use of esoteric geometry, in particular Paul Schatz’s invertible cube design, and is understood as a meditation space to be activated by the house visitors. The observatory is an abstract space where visitors can detach themselves from the worldly contingencies of the everyday in order to find the “true self” through spiritual and spatial awareness.