K. Kowal
Friday 9 November 2018 by Libadmin2018


The subject of this paper is the design of a modern Buddhist retreat center in the West, which presents and unites both the traditional foundations of the Eastern Buddhist culture and the conditions of the modern Western world. The paper answers the question if it is possible to fully transmit through architecture and landscape design the essence of the Buddhist culture to the modern European surrounding, without losing the root of its ritual background. Because of the increasing popularity of Buddhism in the West, the number of Buddhist centers built within this area has expanded rapidly in the last century. The question that arises is how to apply philosophy of “emptiness” into architecture? How to allow the Zen aesthetic rules, summarized in 4 words –emptiness, brightness, luminosity, purity –to apply in the West? The research is based on a variety of methods. Collecting and describing main ideas about other western Buddhist center designs and comparing them with the rules concerning traditional, ritual Buddhist retreat centers. Other methods used for this research are my own observations gathered upon visiting and meditating in Buddhist centers and my own design experience within this field (8 European centers designs). The final statement of this research is the adaptation to different cultures with simultaneous preservation of deepest philosophical meaning of Buddhism in last 2500 years. Deprived only of cultural background of Asian societies, Buddha’s teachings can be now understood by modern, educated and idealistic westerners. Zen aesthetics liberally transformed and freed from its rigid rules fits most fully to the conditions of Western Buddhist centers out of all Eastern Buddhist styles. My design of a contemporary Buddhist retreat center is located in an ideal, abstract location. It includes an architectural, interior and landscape proposal. Modern Buddhist centers are perfect examples of transforming and assimilating classical Buddhist patterns into the modern world. The Design foundations presented take into account the cultural, sociological and historical context as well as the climate and geographical conditions.

Keywords: retreat center, western lay buddhism, zen aesthetic

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