RIBA Award

Vajrasana Buddhist Retreat Centre, Suffolk | Walters & Cohen

This exquisite building for meditation is found in the midst of the Suffolk countryside. Although predominantly inward facing around courtyards it connects to the landscape beyond with views from shared communal rooms and bedrooms much as a monastic settlement might. It is a perfect setting for a Buddhist Centre.

It is simply conceived in an arrangement of courtyards and rooms with a subtle but powerfully orchestrated palette of materials. Day to day living spaces clad in timber sit around a beautifully landscaped courtyard used for teaching, meditation and relaxation. This is separated from the quieter areas by a walkway that cuts through the building connecting the entrance to the wider landscape beyond. These quieter courts embrace the shrine room and are enclosed by dark lattice brickwork that is skillfully executed allowing light to play over and through the walls. Pre-cast concrete elements are used throughout as framing devices, whether they are portal frames to the communal spaces or colonnades to the courtyards. The complete ensemble of rooms, courts and materials has both a feeling of sparseness and sensuousness. It also brings people together in a relaxed way that allows the centre to fully exploit its potential as a haven for meditation.

This is an extraordinarily well conceived building which has arisen from close collaboration between client and architect and is delighting its users. There is a wonderful sense of calm in both the spaces created and materials used that are thoroughly appropriate to the building’s use.

Source: RIBA