Design of a Room of Silence by Diana Obinja, Diakonie Hospital Seehausen

Inauguration of the Room of Silence on October 20, 2005

By Ingrid Pfeifer

Since Franz Schubert’s composition (in the ‘Winterreise’ lieder cycle, 1827) the linden tree has had a firm place in choral singing, and it also gave an architectural project the material and the name. linden_chamber is the name given by the artist Diana Obinja, born in Odessa and living in Berlin, to her installation for the new room of silence at the Seehausen Hospital.
The trunk and leaves of a tree specially selected for the project have been formed into an altar which combines the lightness and delicacy of the leaves with the solidity and organic structure of the tree trunk. Diana Obinja also accepts synthetic materials which emphasise and reinforce the naturalness. The leaves were carefully dried in order to preserve their form and colour, and over many days were then carefully covered in resin – layer for layer. In delicate inscriptions, they bear the names of people close to Diana Obinja, the living and the dead.

Between the leaves it is possible to see the outlines of the tree trunk which supports the altar top. The round trunk directs the gaze to past the delicate bridge of leaves to the translucent glass wall behind the altar, through which the outline of a cross appears. Following the refurbishment the room is intended to provide the spiritual centre of the Seehausen Hospital: nature as a counterweight to the sterile hospital atmosphere.


The altar

The wood for the altar and cross had to come from the forests: a tree trunk for the altar and a long branch for the cross. Chopping a tree down was out of the question. After months of searching, I chose a fallen tree in a forest clearing between Potsdam and Berlin. This poplar tree was just right for the altar. The forestry authorities in Potsdam gave their permission for its use.

Drying leaves in the Botanical Museum in Berlin

For the altar table, a resin block was cast with enclosed linden leaves. Before the organic matter was covered by the resin it had to be dried thoroughly in a special process in order to prevent decay. After desiccating the leaves, they were inscribed with names of the living and the dead.

Project participants