hanrahan Meyers architects (hMa) has designed the Won Dharma Center, a recreational and spiritual 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 20,000 square foot center is located within a 500-acre property on a gently sloping hill with views west to the Hudson River Valley and the Catskill Mountains.
The Center includes permanent and guest residences, and administration building, and a meditation hall, all situated as far as possible from the highway. The buildings have been oriented towards west and south to maximize views and natural light.
The symbol of this organization is an open circle, suggesting both a void without absence and infinite return. The buildings are organized around these dual concepts of void and spiral.
hMa designed the 300 square foot Meditation Hall as a simple rectangular void and a lightweight frame to the natural surroundings. The light wood structure is exposed on three sides to create the entrance and viewing porches, while the interior offers views of the mountains from the meditation space itself. The only interior intervention in this extremely pure structure is a cubic volume housing public facilities, closets and mechanical spaces.
The four other buildings on site include the administrative and dining spaces, and all of the residential spaces for both guests and permanent residents. Their designs draw upon the buildings of the grass-roofed Korean village, loosely clustered and organized internally around a single central void.
The roof shapes of these 4000 square foot buildings transform in section around a spiral organization, from a simple slope in section to a complex triangulated geometry at the entrance porches.
The concept of the buildings define a seamless transition between interior and exterior, with a focus on internal organization that allows for silent walking meditation around the courtyard. The courtyard also acts as a passive cooling system, allowing cross ventilation for the public spaces and open guest rooms.
All the buildings within the Won Dharma Center are constructed completely of wood and are deeply shaded to the west and south to allow natural daylighting without excessive heat gain.
*All images and information courtesy of hanrahan Meyers architects.