International Buddhist Association South Island New Zealand for the Buddhist Community Centre

2007 New Zealand Institute of Architects Award
2007 The Civic Trust Award

Concept, Design
New Zealand
Design / October,2002–February,2004
Building / December,2005–December,2006
Site Area / 2115.70㎡
Subtotal Area / 1626.45㎡

In alcoves, forms of Buddha radiating Dharma, between thick walls, through the shadows, and amongst the greens. Walking, standing, sitting, resting, they demonstrate in the Saha World. Relaxing, playing, cultivating and practicing, we learn in daily life.

The city of Christchurch, situated in the central region of South Island New Zealand, is the largest city on the island. It is an old city built around a church. In such context, the Buddhist Community Center is the medium that enables the discourse between people of different religions and cultures.

A building for Buddhists in the city of Christchurch, its architectural considerations and expressions are critical to mediate the religious and cultural differences. Art, being a common language amongst people of all ages, races, cultures and religions, is an enabling factor for people to overcome differences. We employ artworks, with the spirit of Buddhism yet beyond religious symbolism, as the key architectural elements to attain an ideal – enlightening Dharma through Art.

The conception of our design relates to the beautiful and intricate art, Buddhist statues and paintings, of Mogao Caves in China. On the route of the ancient Chinese Silk Road, the crossroad of civilizations, these caves contain the finest art created through synergies of the Asian and European cultures over hundreds of years. Inspired by these caves, we design the main building facade to be heavy and massive, using sandstones as the material, to imply cliffs where the caves reside. Four alcoves are carved into the massive façade, with rough surface texture of sandstone, indicating niches for art. Rough surfaces and plain walls allude to candid thoughts of Buddhists – As the building materials are true to their natural forms, the building may fulfill the truth its residents’ heart.

In the irregularly shaped alcoves on the main façade, statues of smiley figures are exhibited to indicate the attitude of Buddhism – it is a way of living but a stern, restrained religious practice. The practice is in the daily living, at every moment, and as each of the statues portrays, while walking, standing, sitting and resting. These statues are created by Taiwanese sculptor HC Chen. Mr. Chen makes these statues bodhisattvas presenting the teaching of Buddha through rich forms of postures with kind and lovely facial expressions. These statues are caring bodhisattvas to the Buddhists, as well as friendly hosts to the other visitors.

The building is set back from the street to allow for a lotus pond. Visitors enter through a small footbridge and across the lotus pond to reach the lobby. The lobby is an indoor public area where visitors are free to wander around. In the lobby, there is an art gallery and a café serving vegetarian food. A central courtyard, with a big tree and green lawn, is the focal point of this complex; its greenery permeates into the building through glass walls surrounding it. Along one side of the courtyard, we design a staircase to bring visitors experiences of embracing the tree – walking from the shadow underneath the tree up towards the canopy. The staircase also brings visitors to the main hall and classrooms on the second floor. The main hall is bordered, to the west, by a corridor, where moving lights of the southern sun, through long and narrow windows, tells the passing of time. In the Buddhist Community Center, the architecture works in collaboration with the nature to evoke Buddhism in tranquility.