Famen Temple Zen Meditation Centre

Famen Temple Zen Meditation Centre

Office for Architectural Culture
Xi'an, China
Project Year
Wellness Centres

Famen Temple Zen Meditation Centre

Office for Architectural Culture as Architects

London’s OAC brings history, religious philosophy, soul, architecture and environment together on the Buddhist holy place

Following OAC’s win on the international design competition and completion of the master planfor Famen Temple Zen Meditation Centre in 2012, the London-based Office for Architectural Culture recently completed the schematic designs for the buildings, landscape, and experiential features and art installations for meditation in the first phase of the project called the ‘Eightfold Path Forest’. This forest surrounds the renowned historic temple’s 148m new Namaste Dagoba where the world’s only Buddha Śākyamuni’s finger bone relic is preserved today.

The project is part of the new cultural master plan development on the site of the renowned 1,800 year-old Famen Buddhist Temple (aka Dharma Gate Temple) outside Xi’an, China. It is the place which has successfully preserved the world’s only Buddha Śākyamuni’s finger bone relic since the 2nd century AD to date. As the imperial temple in the powerful Tang Dynasty at the peak of the ancient Silk Road era, it is considered a holy place amongst Buddhist pilgrims around the world today. The Famen Temple Meditation Centre project OAC has been commissioned to design,has a total 1,250,000 m2 site area and 300,000 m2 building floor areas.

This is one of the largest architectural and landscape commissions in the world focused around an historic religious temple. This high profile project will draw international pilgrims from China, and from across the world to experience Buddhism through the design of buildings and landscape. It includes the 1km square ‘Eightfold Path Forest’, four museums and a performing arts theatre, manuscript-copy halls, several large venues for meditation activities, a Buddhist academy, an art complex, a music complex, a concert hall, a 5-star Zen-theme boutique hotel and a 5-star hotel, and over a thousand meditation lodges for meditators.

Charles Phu, Design Director/Founder of the practice, explained: ‘the core concept of the buildings, environment and meditative artworks of the project is beyond formality and metaphor. Our designs for outdoor spaces and buildings will bring Buddhist pilgrims and visitors into a state of meditative mind without them being aware of it, and will inspire people with Buddhist Zen philosophies, ethics and way of life through an experience of six senses instead of through formal or descriptive approaches. It’s so-calledWisdom of Contemplation – the highest wisdom in Buddhism and the most difficult to reach. The spaces, buildings and environment we have created for this project form the ‘circumstances’ to help people reach such a state of mind. It is much more challenging than most design projects.’

‘The best way to describe our design is that it integrates Buddhist philosophy, Zen meditation, medieval Zhou and Tang Chinese cultures and modern life into one.’ Charles Phu continued.

This part of the project OAC has completed for the schematic design includes:

- The 80,000 m2 extension of the ceremonial plaza of Namaste Dagoba (Buddha’s bone relic pagoda) - 550,000 m2 ‘Eightfold Path’ Forest - the environment, landscape and art installations for experiential meditation - Buddhist Cultural Interactive Museum & 1,500-seats Theatre for Performing Arts (2,950 m2) - Zen Eco Museum and Interactive Energy Centre (1,200 m2) - Manuscript-copy Halls (700 m2) - Meditation Halls, the largest amongst which houses 500 people (1,020 m2) - Zen Spa (385 m2) - 13 Meditation Lodges (2,210 m2 in total) - Zen Corporate Club Houses (2,220 m2) - Apart-hotel (960 m2) - Theme Restaurants (430 m2) - 5-star boutique hotel (2,500 m2. Detailed to be designed in the next phase)

Buddhist Cultural Interactive Museum, which also houses a 1,500-seat theatre for performing arts alongside its exhibition use, marries Buddhist principles, original Zen Buddhist concepts of Tang Dynasty, and its geographic relationship with the Earth. Whilst the orientation of the building is 9.5 degrees northwest from the true north, the central gallery and theatre, located underground, are orientated to the true north with a perfect 2-dimensional symmetry. This allows visitors to experience through a series of experiential contrasts, which end with a performing arts space with religiousness, sacredness, purity and richness. The theatre is designed to have performances and religious ceremonial events that are interactive with audiences.

Zen Eco Museum, which includes one of the energy centres serving the development, demonstrates the religion’s ecological and environmental principles, as well as the development’s commitments to sustainable communities. It also offers educational opportunities to a wider audience.

The two religious Manuscript-copy Halls are organised using simple geometries and symmetry, linked by a meditative tunnel aimed to bring people into the meditative state of mind. Shelves for historic manuscripts and archives form part of the architectural space of each hall, providing a peaceful yet sacred atmosphere for this Buddhist meditative activity.

The project’s Xi’an-based client Qujiang Group, who realised several UNESCO and National Heritage sites in China, are planning to commence the construction of the project’s 1km square first phase in the second half of this year.

Roger Whiteman, Managing Director for the project, explained: ‘the whole project is a philosophical gallery - an interactive exhibition of interwoven themes and events which help people purify minds and learn from the law of nature – Buddhism’s Three Dharma Seals: impermanence, non-self-ness and suffer-to-enlightenment. It is a celebration of Nature in harmony with Man’.

The project design team is led by Design Director Charles Phu and Management Director Roger Whiteman.

The key members include Associate Director Oliver Hempel, and Paul Browning, Amelia Payton, Giedre M Kristaponyte, Ariadna Roca,Umberto Lusso, Matthew Yip and Carlos Agelet de Saracibar.

The renowned London-based artist Yomei Chiang and Germany-based artist Philippe Devaud, along with OAC design team, have designed 10 meditative art installations during the schematic design phase. The installations are designed according to the philosophy of each quarter of the sacred ‘Eightfold Path Forest’ so that meditators will be naturally brought into the meditative state of mind to understand and ultimately reach the eight wisdoms of the Eightfold Path while meditating.

British landscape architect David Blackwood Murray and landscape consultant City Design provided Landscape expertise. Ramboll (London) provided advisory support in sustainability and building services of the project. Museum consultant Real Studios have been engaged to assist in setting out experience intervention strategies. The design of the theatre for performing arts in the Buddhist Cultural Museum is advised by London-based theatre consultant Theater Plan andGerman acoustics consultant Mueller BBM.

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