As I was walking around these buildings, I could feel a sense of new life constantly being generated, like a new soul within an old body that contained both the solemnity of the the past and the playfulness of the present. The small art gallery next to St Heliers Street cafe and the open studios inside Mercator Building are some of the ‘younger’ parts of Abbotsford Convent, reflecting the site’s transformation over the years to adapt to the contemporary world. By incorporating new aesthetics into its original architecture, it creates a space for artists and creative individuals to experiment with their work and display them publicly.  

"Be careful not to break the windows. They are very old" said one of the young baristas in St Heliers cafe when he saw a bunch of kids running around near the gallery windows. The old windows and worn down walls outside the building contrasted with that of clean canvas-like walls in the inside; a contrast between the Victorian era and the modern world perhaps. But these two aspects went surprisingly well together, creating a rather warm, snug feeling.

I felt the same thing when I peeped into the Mercator Building studios where potters were busy at their wheels, creating clay bowls and decorating them. I felt that spaces like these are what ‘animates’ Abbotsford Convent and makes it what it is - A place for never-ending development and experimentation. 

The old empty hall (also known as the Laundries) is filled with ghostly silence, covered with different layers of crusty paint, peeling off like the dead skins of an ancient tortoise. As I was looking around the place, I over heard two strangers talking about how the hall used to be a residential space for artists during the 70s (don’t quote me on this though). One thing I do know is that this place has been used by the convent as an industrial laundry since the 1860s. Women and girls who were put into the asylum were the forced to work in this laundry.

It’s a place that stimulates your senses. One doesn’t need to know the history in order to feel these things because every fabric of the building tells you its story; the colours and shades on the wall that has been painted over different periods of time, the decaying materials holding up the roof, the thick sheet of dust on the floor, they all have something to say. Despite the fact that I did feel a little uncomfortable when I first stepped into the hall, I also find it rather interesting and attractive. I can almost visualize the time when this space used to be filled with people and bustled with activity.

The convent’s website says that this area is eventually going to be redeveloped into a gallery, performance art, and film space, adding another layer of history onto these walls. 

This concrete courtyard is probably the space that best reflects my first impression of Abbotsford Convent. The washed out colours of grey and white made it look like a painting with a vast void in the middle. Places like these have their own values. Sometimes people have the urge to get away from the busy urban life, sometimes people need this kind of emptiness. And I think that’s what Abbotsford Convent provides to the visitors and the community surrounding it. It is a place where you can escape to when you want to be lost in your own thoughts.

This concrete courtyard is probably the space that best reflects my first impression of Abbotsford Convent. The washed out colours of grey and white made it look like a painting with a vast void in the middle. Places like these have their own values. Sometimes people have the urge to get away from the busy urban life, sometimes people need this kind of emptiness. And I think that’s what Abbotsford Convent provides to the visitors and the community surrounding it. It is a place where you can escape to when you want to be lost in your own thoughts.

The gardens of Abbotsford Convent seem to have have different faces. Certain parts allow you to lay down in the sun, and other parts swallow you up with shadows. Some parts even look like a fully grown forest. But they are all pleasant in some ways. The old buildings that pop out above the treetops gives the convent a medieval look - Another reason to wander around imagining yourself in another time in another world.

The gardens of Abbotsford Convent seem to have have different faces. Certain parts allow you to lay down in the sun, and other parts swallow you up with shadows. Some parts even look like a fully grown forest. But they are all pleasant in some ways. The old buildings that pop out above the treetops gives the convent a medieval look - Another reason to wander around imagining yourself in another time in another world.

There probably were vines covering up the southern walls of the Sacred Heart building, which seem to have been removed recently. These marks left a strong impression in my mind. I don’t know how long it has been like that, but it’s obvious that it was intentionally preserved in this way instead of painting over it again. Were they planning to grow the vines again? Were they leaving it as it is for a sense of authenticity and history? Either way, I thought it looked pretty cool. It felt as if I could see the building’s veins through its transparent skin. A nice way to decorate a wall.

The old Bois & Charbons building next to the convent’s second gate also shows a lot of character. The red brickwork and timbers, combined with the vintage fonts from god-knows-when, made me excited a little when I spotted it. I really wanted to see what was inside. The word ‘coke’ indicates that it was a place where they burned or stored coal, and it also says wood & charcoal in French. Maybe it’s because the site was originally established by French nuns (or maybe that’s just how it’s usually referred to as). I’m curious to find out the background story of this place.

ORA PRO NOBIS
What better proof of history than a stone monument with huge latin words saying ‘pray for us’ carved on it. If you look closely, there is the date of when this thing was put up. September 29th, 1926. You don’t usually appreciate a place’s history until you see the dates with your own eyes, and that’s when it really overwhelms you. You start thinking of people who must have walked past these pillars almost 90 years ago and the kind of life they must have lived. These pillars must have witnessed it all - the tension of both world wars, people’s prayers, and everything else that followed.

ORA PRO NOBIS

What better proof of history than a stone monument with huge latin words saying ‘pray for us’ carved on it. If you look closely, there is the date of when this thing was put up. September 29th, 1926. You don’t usually appreciate a place’s history until you see the dates with your own eyes, and that’s when it really overwhelms you. You start thinking of people who must have walked past these pillars almost 90 years ago and the kind of life they must have lived. These pillars must have witnessed it all - the tension of both world wars, people’s prayers, and everything else that followed.

As I was walking around these buildings, I could feel a sense of new life constantly being generated, like a new soul within an old body that contained both the solemnity of the the past and the playfulness of the present. The small art gallery next to St Heliers Street cafe and the open studios inside Mercator Building are some of the ‘younger’ parts of Abbotsford Convent, reflecting the site’s transformation over the years to adapt to the contemporary world. By incorporating new aesthetics into its original architecture, it creates a space for artists and creative individuals to experiment with their work and display them publicly.  

"Be careful not to break the windows. They are very old" said one of the young baristas in St Heliers cafe when he saw a bunch of kids running around near the gallery windows. The old windows and worn down walls outside the building contrasted with that of clean canvas-like walls in the inside; a contrast between the Victorian era and the modern world perhaps. But these two aspects went surprisingly well together, creating a rather warm, snug feeling.

I felt the same thing when I peeped into the Mercator Building studios where potters were busy at their wheels, creating clay bowls and decorating them. I felt that spaces like these are what ‘animates’ Abbotsford Convent and makes it what it is - A place for never-ending development and experimentation. 

The old empty hall (also known as the Laundries) is filled with ghostly silence, covered with different layers of crusty paint, peeling off like the dead skins of an ancient tortoise. As I was looking around the place, I over heard two strangers talking about how the hall used to be a residential space for artists during the 70s (don’t quote me on this though). One thing I do know is that this place has been used by the convent as an industrial laundry since the 1860s. Women and girls who were put into the asylum were the forced to work in this laundry.

It’s a place that stimulates your senses. One doesn’t need to know the history in order to feel these things because every fabric of the building tells you its story; the colours and shades on the wall that has been painted over different periods of time, the decaying materials holding up the roof, the thick sheet of dust on the floor, they all have something to say. Despite the fact that I did feel a little uncomfortable when I first stepped into the hall, I also find it rather interesting and attractive. I can almost visualize the time when this space used to be filled with people and bustled with activity.

The convent’s website says that this area is eventually going to be redeveloped into a gallery, performance art, and film space, adding another layer of history onto these walls. 

This concrete courtyard is probably the space that best reflects my first impression of Abbotsford Convent. The washed out colours of grey and white made it look like a painting with a vast void in the middle. Places like these have their own values. Sometimes people have the urge to get away from the busy urban life, sometimes people need this kind of emptiness. And I think that’s what Abbotsford Convent provides to the visitors and the community surrounding it. It is a place where you can escape to when you want to be lost in your own thoughts.

This concrete courtyard is probably the space that best reflects my first impression of Abbotsford Convent. The washed out colours of grey and white made it look like a painting with a vast void in the middle. Places like these have their own values. Sometimes people have the urge to get away from the busy urban life, sometimes people need this kind of emptiness. And I think that’s what Abbotsford Convent provides to the visitors and the community surrounding it. It is a place where you can escape to when you want to be lost in your own thoughts.

The gardens of Abbotsford Convent seem to have have different faces. Certain parts allow you to lay down in the sun, and other parts swallow you up with shadows. Some parts even look like a fully grown forest. But they are all pleasant in some ways. The old buildings that pop out above the treetops gives the convent a medieval look - Another reason to wander around imagining yourself in another time in another world.

The gardens of Abbotsford Convent seem to have have different faces. Certain parts allow you to lay down in the sun, and other parts swallow you up with shadows. Some parts even look like a fully grown forest. But they are all pleasant in some ways. The old buildings that pop out above the treetops gives the convent a medieval look - Another reason to wander around imagining yourself in another time in another world.

There probably were vines covering up the southern walls of the Sacred Heart building, which seem to have been removed recently. These marks left a strong impression in my mind. I don’t know how long it has been like that, but it’s obvious that it was intentionally preserved in this way instead of painting over it again. Were they planning to grow the vines again? Were they leaving it as it is for a sense of authenticity and history? Either way, I thought it looked pretty cool. It felt as if I could see the building’s veins through its transparent skin. A nice way to decorate a wall.

The old Bois & Charbons building next to the convent’s second gate also shows a lot of character. The red brickwork and timbers, combined with the vintage fonts from god-knows-when, made me excited a little when I spotted it. I really wanted to see what was inside. The word ‘coke’ indicates that it was a place where they burned or stored coal, and it also says wood & charcoal in French. Maybe it’s because the site was originally established by French nuns (or maybe that’s just how it’s usually referred to as). I’m curious to find out the background story of this place.

ORA PRO NOBIS
What better proof of history than a stone monument with huge latin words saying ‘pray for us’ carved on it. If you look closely, there is the date of when this thing was put up. September 29th, 1926. You don’t usually appreciate a place’s history until you see the dates with your own eyes, and that’s when it really overwhelms you. You start thinking of people who must have walked past these pillars almost 90 years ago and the kind of life they must have lived. These pillars must have witnessed it all - the tension of both world wars, people’s prayers, and everything else that followed.

ORA PRO NOBIS

What better proof of history than a stone monument with huge latin words saying ‘pray for us’ carved on it. If you look closely, there is the date of when this thing was put up. September 29th, 1926. You don’t usually appreciate a place’s history until you see the dates with your own eyes, and that’s when it really overwhelms you. You start thinking of people who must have walked past these pillars almost 90 years ago and the kind of life they must have lived. These pillars must have witnessed it all - the tension of both world wars, people’s prayers, and everything else that followed.

About:

PP2 project blog for Abbotsford Convent. Exploring the space from different perspectives - The rich history of the convent allows us to feel a range of moods and aura as we move from one spot to another.

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