International Bodhisattva Sangha

2009 Taiwan Architecture Awards Honorable Mention
2011 Taichung Urban Design Award

Concept, Design, and Construction
Taichung, Taiwan
Design / February 2002 – December 2003
Building / February 2004 – November 2004
Site Area / 376.86㎡
Subtotal Area / 634.71㎡

The spirit of the International Bodhisattva Sangha is dharma. It is the teaching of the Buddha: beyond knowledge, shapeless and formless, to be learned through practice. The architecture of the International Bodhisattva Sangha is the environment for the practice, the site for the teaching of the Buddha. The physical form of architecture, in concert with its surrounding and nature, provides a sacred place within a mundane city and calms unsettled minds.

The building is set back from the road to create a friendly entrance. At the front gate, an old plum tree and a flat rock invite passersby and visitors to sit and rest. Beyond the gate, a water curtain opens into the entrance hall. Resting on the flat rock at the front gate, a passerby is allowed the opportunity to attend to her/his heart and make the decision – to enter or to leave.

“A path to the enlightenment” is the key design concept in the International Bodhisattva Sangha – through the architectural arrangement, the path spirals up to signify the progression towards the enlightenment. The path starts at the front gate, proceeds along a walkway, lined with peach trees and sweet olive trees, over a pond, to arrive at the entrance hall, which is an open area with a reception and offices. Following the skylight up the stairs, the path leads to the temple bell, where visitors proclaim their determinations to seek enlightenment by ringing the bell and continues to the temple hall, the place for the teaching of the Buddha. The end of the path is a platform at the highest point to signify dharma, where visitors may review the path and reflect on past decisions.

The coarse mass of fair-faced concrete and the greenery on walls gives the first impression of the International Bodhisattva Sangha building. Simple and modern, the architectural form is very distinct from conventional Buddhist temples, yet it fits perfectly with the streetscape. Staying true to the essence of the International Bodhisattva Sangha – natural and unrefined, all concrete walls are deliberately kept unfinished with textures left from rough wooden molds. The thick, sculptural, solid walls nurture openings and interior spaces, alluding to a pair of b hands safeguarding the treasure chest of wisdom. At night, lights beam through windows indicating the architecture of dharma, the site of enlightenment.

Nature is the key design element that permeates through the International Bodhisattva Sangha building. On the first floor, a curve interior wall is carefully placed apart from the exterior wall so that the daylight, as well as the wind and sound, may come through. The stairway traverses in and out of the building, allowing visitors to experience changes of physical spaces as well as changes in weather. On the second floor, Bodhisattva sits in front of a window, a large canvas, on which is an old elm tree, the daylight, and the white walls from the neighboring building form a composition. The composition changes depending on the day and the season, and thus keeping someone always connected with nature.

Furnished with wood furniture and floors, all interior spaces are warm and delicate despite having rough and cold concrete walls. Board by board, screw by screw, the Lukang-based artisans slowly transform each and every interior space with the woodworks and craftsmanship: the craft, the mindfulness, and carefulness is a realization of dharma. A place where architecture and Buddha coincide, the International Bodhisattva Sangha embodies the teaching of Buddha to be a site for dharma.