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Religious themes and building designs at The University of Southampton

I’d started my new job last at the Lloyds Register office-building on the University of Southampton’s Health Science  campus. To be honest, although the Scandinavian architecture and facilities are amazing, it has an extremely monastic theme which I find both intriguing and slightly unsettling.

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It’s an open floor office with clear glass walls and security barriers on every level. The center of the building is connected by a pure  white spiral staircase that has fluorescent-lit metal railing which is often warm to touch.  A large canteen on the ground floor that resembles  a chapel is where a congregation could be held, while the gourmet, freshly made food is served free to all staff, and for me suggests a symbolic gesture.

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From the top floor you can look all the way down and see the interior of the building. In keeping with its minimalistic style,  the bamboo wood stairs and fixtures also remind of carpentry and Noah’s Arc, oddly, even the interior carpets appear to evoke the stacks of nails which would have been used to crucify Jesus.

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Both the reception on the ground floor and exterior stairs that lead up to the main are made with worn sand-stone, and seems to emphasise the theme of worhsip and hard labour at the bottom level; here, you must first ascend a set of stairs before you can enter the kingdom of heaven.

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The staff uniforms are either black or white, accept for the catering staff (*brown like the bamboo stairs), and the building’s security guards are all tall, fit, presumably ex-servicemen, and some of whom even look like Israeli commandos, and although they’re very friendly, they also look abit menacing. I guess there’s a secret room somewhere on the lower level filled with guns, right out of The Matrix(1999), in case of any hostile takeover.

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The symmetrical design reminds both of the building Arnold Schwarwenneger visits to have a memory implant in Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven, 1990) , and the gothic/Catholic imagery of Danish director Carl Theodore Dryer’s films (Vamyr 1932, Ordet 1955).

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