Emanating from a high-desert hillside amidst rugged volcanic rock and twisted juniper trees, the Buddhist Retreat rises up and out toward a spectacular view Capitol Reef National Park. In addition to its function as a secondary residence, this dwelling in Grover, Utah was designed to be a desert sanctuary for Tibetan Buddhist practice. Its intent is to intertwine everyday activities with singular moments that are typically reserved for spiritual rituals, thus heightening and sanctifying the act of living. Whether it be framing the detail of an ancient pinion pine or extending out into the spatial expanse of a wrapping panorama, the Buddhist Retreat’s purpose is to creating rich and diverse moments of living.
Flush with the ground at the top of the site, the entry deck of the house projects horizontally out into space toward the red rock gateway of the park as the topography slopes down toward the verdant valley below. The result is a space that suspends the user in a grand moment for group meditation, free and clear of visual and mental obstruction.
Down through the deck the user descends toward the entry into a space shaded from the desert sun by the deck above. This contrastingly intimate moment frames the most prominent details of the site: clusters of rugged junipers on one side, and exposed volcanic rocks on the other. Entering into the house, the main living space again directs the view outward through a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall frame of the lush green valley and red plateau beyond. The operable glass wall disappears to further blur the line between interior and exterior, function and nature.
The master and guest bedrooms again endeavor to create contrast enclosing the view by walls ancient pinion pines just beyond the windows and glass doors. Ascending up a vibrant red spiral stair, a lofted space with a ridgeline-view combines the office with a shrine for meditation.
The main exterior walls supporting the meditation deck are clad in gabion cages filled with volcanic rock found at the site and the local vicinity. The rock not only ties the retreat to the site visually, but also absorbs and dissipates heat from the hot summer sun through thermal mass and increased surface area. The deck, made of naturally durable ipe wood, withstands harsh desert conditions and acts as a double roof system to mitigate solar heat gain. Standing seam steel offers a resilient counterpoint to the other rugged materials as well as the site’s beautifully rough nature. In lieu of A/C an operable skylight and whole house fan placed at the top of the stairwell create a heat chimney for exhausting hot air while low operable windows resupply with cooler air and cross ventilation. Photovoltaic roof panels supply the remote house with power while an onsite well supplies the purest of drinking water. When analyzed, the structure exceeds the highest EnergyStar rating.
On the interior, locally sourced materials are used throughout. The museum white walls and dark concrete floors act as neutral canvas onto which the owner will apply color through her own selection of furniture, local artwork, and spiritual paraphernalia.
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- Marci Milligan
- Fordham Construction