journeys at home and abroad
Selfridges has reinstated its 1909 Silence Room. To enter, you need to remove shoes and electronic devices. The entrance is down a dark corridor and the inside is carpeted and felted.
No one knows what the original was like, but Selfridges says it was a room
‘where busy shoppers could “retire from the whirl of bargains and the build up of energy”.
We think we need it now more than ever, so are bringing it back . . . this reincarnation of the Silence Room has an insulated inner-sanctum, shielded from the noise and human traffic of the store.’
Religious language is used here unselfconsciously. Multifaith spaces are now so popular they are the subject of academic study. This one is a quiet place, protected, for anyone to sit still and just be. Intentionality seems to be important for Selfridges, as does the removal of possible distractions.
RIBA comments on the lighting and residual noise and then says
‘The Silence Room is thus by nature a flawed thing- a physical case to prove, even in our atomized world, how difficult it can be to be alone and isolate yourself from everyday life.’
On the contrary, the Silence Room seems to be about sharing the silence with others, not an attempt at isolating oneself. It’s not a series of booths. The sharing is in real time, in real space and with people who are actually present – an intensification of life, rather than a removal from it. Maybe that’s part of the attraction.