Architects: hanrahanMeyers architects
- Area: 28000 ft²
Photographs:Michael Moran / ottoarchive.com
Text description provided by the architects. The Won Dharma Center, USA, is a 28,000 square-foot spiritual and recreational retreat in Claverack, New York for the Won Buddhists, a Korean organization that emphasizes balance in one's daily life and relationship to nature. The center is located on a 500-acre site on a gently sloping hill with views west to the Catskill Mountains. The buildings for the Center, including permanent and guest residences, an administration building and a meditation hall, are sited as far as possible from the local rural access road, and oriented west and south to maximize views and light. The symbol of the Won organization is an open circle, suggesting both a void without absence and infinite return. The buildings are organized around the dual concepts of void and spiral.
The clients requested that the architects design the retreat using as many natural materials as possible, to be in harmony with the rural character of the region. The architects selected wood as the best material to address the client’s philosophy. With the Buddhists’ meadow planting agenda for the future remediation of the built area of the site, the architects installed cedar screens at all of the building porches to further the goal of designing buildings that merge with the landscape. The screens recreate the dappled effect of sunlight coming through tree canopies, while also providing solar protection.
The 3,000 square-foot Meditation Hall is conceived as a simple rectangular void and a lightweight frame to the natural surroundings. Its wooden structure is exposed on three sides to form entrance and viewing porches, while the interior offers expansive views of the mountains.
The four residential buildings include the dining hall/ administrative building, and three residential dormitories for guests and permanent residents. The design of the residential buildings draws on the formal organization of grass-roofed Korean farm-houses, loosely clustered and organized internally around a single central void. The roof shapes of the 4,000 square-foot residence buildings transform in section around a spiral organization, from a simple slope in section to a complex triangulated geometry where the roof transforms into an open-air entrance porch. The internal organization of the residence buildings allows silent walking meditation from courtyard to courtyard. The courtyards act as passive cooling systems, and when the sliding doors facing the courtyards open, cross ventilation through the public areas and guest rooms provides passive cooling. All of the residential buildings are wood construction, like the Meditation Hall, and deeply shaded to the west and south to allow natural daylighting without excessive heat gain.