Founded in 1988 on a 411-acre site in the hills of West Marin County in Northern California, the Spirit Center serves as a retreat for Buddhist practitioners. Hired to design a new community meditation center for the non-profit organization was Hart Howerton, which offers planning, architecture, interior design and landscape architecture services out of hub offices in San Francisco and New York.
In its mission statement, Hart Howerton says it specializes in “designing complete environments: exceptional buildings, communities and places in special situations, where a unique historic or natural environment requires an especially thoughtful and innovative solution.” The Spirit Center’s new meditation complex – whose centerpiece is an eight-sided Temple Hall with a 41-ft.-tall ceiling – definitely fills that bill.
Tim Slattery, a partner and principal at Hart Howerton’s San Francisco office, says the hall’s octagonal shape references early Buddhist temple forms and the fact that the number 8 also has symbolic meaning in Buddhist teachings. “We worked to create a liaison between Eastern and Western architecture in the language of the building,” Slattery explains. “The eight-sided space allows multiple points of view to frame the natural setting beyond, so those inside always feel intimately connected to the landscape.”
Adding a soothing yet spectacular element to the space is an installation of Douglas fir wood panels that adorn its doomed ceiling. “The panels were installed in a horizontal pattern to reinforce the soaring shape of the ceiling, while also aiding in the acoustics within the space,” says Slattery.