Tag Archives: SACRED

THE RELIQUARY BUILDING FOR THE 14TH SHAMARPA: RESOUNDING IN SILENCE

August 2, 2019

If our design doesn’t yell for attention, then we are successful. Intentionally, our architecture here is not raucous, but rather, enjoys its peaceful disposition.

Poon Design Inc. has completed four sacred buildings for the Bodhi Path Buddhist Center of Natural Bridge, with construction plans for the fifth building underway. The several-hundred-acre setting of the international Buddhist retreat property acknowledges the late Shamar Rinpoche, also known as the 14th Shamarpa and the distinguished Red Hat Lama of Tibet.

For this non-profit organization, our architecture investigates economical design that is both neutral and dramatic, both traditional and modern. Universally sacred, all the projects express a crafted architecture of both human and spiritual hands.

The relics of Shamar Rinpoche are preserved within a gold-leafed stupa. (photo by Anthony Poon)
(photo by Anthony Poon)

In the summer of 2018, Bodhi Path dedicated the Reliquary Building for the 14th Shamarpa. Poon Design’s structure preserves the relics of this eminent lama held within a gold-leafed stupa, one of only three such stupas commissioned worldwide.

The environmentally-friendly building sits gracefully in nature, enjoying the changing seasons, indoor-outdoor connections, connecting to the rest of the property that has expansive views to the Blue Ridge Mountains. We choose to not make a noisy statement, and instead, search for meditative stillness in architecture. And in keeping with Buddha’s teachings, we approached this modern reliquary temple, in accordance with principles of balance and equanimity—through what some may say is a Path of Moderation.

(photo by Mark Ballogg)
The stupa is softy and naturally lit by a dramatic skylight. (photo by Mark Ballogg)

Poon Design’s architectural language is universally sacred. Our design for this blessed building starts with a historical form that provides a spiritual backdrop that is both calm and theatrical, both classical and contemporary. For whomever visits this reliquary structure, architecture serves as a vessel of experiences and events. Sacred architecture can treasure memories, house beliefs and sustain confidence.

Our building nestles into the trees, gently sitting on the land. (photo by Mark Ballogg)

This 14th Shamarpa Reliquary Building completes the 250-foot long site axis that spiritually and visually links our previously completed Buddhist temple and support building at the top of the hill, to the pond at the bottom, where a wood bridge and campus entry are located.

The structure faces the pond that greets visitors to this retreat center. (photo by Mark Ballogg)
Our design process at Poon Design.

Discussion of future buildings include a dining commons, dormitory and additional cabins, museum and visitor center, just to name a few. Stay tuned, and read this feature of our work in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, often called, “A beacon for Western Buddhists.”

Construction plans underway for the fifth building, Bodhi Path Dining Commons (rendering by Encore Studio)

EMBRACING THE HUMAN SPIRIT

September 24, 2015

National September 11 Memorial, New York, New York, by Michael Arad with PWP Landscape Architecture (photo by PWP Landscape Architecture)

Upon returning from the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, a colleague stated that she found the design dismal. I responded, “Maybe that is the point.”

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is not exultant. It does not elate. As commemoration, the architecture honors the lives lost through acknowledging grief and pain. Through such, comes healing and the succinct message, “Never forget.”

In the mainstream of TV shows and magazines, architecture is merely thought of as designing homes. And indeed, architecture is a house.

But what can it house?

Besides housing families, architecture can collect memories, it can store beliefs, and it can sustain faith.

Chapel for the Air Force Village, San Antonio, Texas, by Poon Design (rendering by Amaya)
Chapel for the Air Force Village, San Antonio, Texas, by Poon Design (rendering by Amaya)

Whether the design of memorials or sacred structures such as shrines and temples, the architecture of spirituality informs. It influences and guides. Such architecture can be a celebration enlivening the human spirit, or it can be solemn, confronting the human spirit.

Here, when I speak of religion, I am referring to a belief system that might be a private personal agenda or a structured practice of an organization’s ethics. The architecture of religion then, offers spaces that contain an individual’s creed or a community’s doctrines. The resulting forms and materials from such architecture express conviction and devotion.

top: Holocaust and Human Rights Center, University of Maine at Augusta; bottom: River of Life Christian Church, Santa Clara, California, by Poon Design (renderings by Amaya)
top: Holocaust and Human Rights Center, University of Maine at Augusta; bottom: River of Life Christian Church, Santa Clara, California, by Poon Design (renderings by Amaya)

The design of a church for example can be flooded with natural light to express the revelry of faith. On the other hand, a church can be intentionally dark and somber, so as to make any form of light, say a single small sun beam, apparent and dramatic—representing the presence of a holy deity.

I previously wrote about my many years serving Buddhists as their select architect. For their national foundation, I designed places to worship and study, to retreat and meditate, and to gather and connect.

Contraband & Freedmen’s Cemetery and Memorial, Alexandria, Virginia, by Poon Design (rendering by Zemplinski)
Contraband & Freedmen’s Cemetery and Memorial, Alexandria, Virginia, by Poon Design (rendering by Zemplinski)

Poon Design has created spiritual spaces of all kinds. Just to name a few: a 140,000-square-foot manufacturing plant transformed into a church in California, a Holocaust and Human Rights library in Maine, and a cemetery and memorial park for the freed slaves in Virginia. Our other projects of remembrance include 9/11 in California, AIDS victims in Florida, and the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, D.C.

Whether a chapel designed for a retirement community of the Air Force in Texas, or a Massachusetts memorial designed for the victims of the Holocaust, my architecture can be engaged individually and intimately, or publicly and as a society.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington, D.C., by Poon Design
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington, D.C., by Poon Design
© Poon Design Inc.