Two Inspiring Buildings

Here are two inspiring buildings that I have been looking at over the past few weeks:

Chapel by Breathnach Donnellan O'Brien and MEDS Students– check out this site for more interior photos and design plans.

& -strength and permeability.

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Boat Wreck and a Bed

Stream of consciousness project reflection from earlier this winter- the importance of play in process.

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Thinking Small, Yestermorrow Meditation Hut

I found a great, smaller-scale project this week done by Aaron Westgate, a former Yestermorrow intern. Aaron built a small meditation hut during his time at the school in 2005. Below is the link to the Yestermorrow blog where there are more images of the project and some words from the builder:

Yestermorrow Meditation Hut

“I’m fascinated by the idea of architecture-for-enlightenment- the concept of designing spaces that facilitate personal peace so that we may engage in the world with more awareness and compassion.”- Aaron Westgate

I am interested in exploring what a smaller space or installation design might offer for our project, especially in light of our building constraints. While a smaller structure would not work as well for a group gatherings, it could support individuals in search of a refuge space or a place for personal contemplative, religious/ spiritual practices.

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Sukkah City

I was doing some research on sukkahs today, which are the temporary ceremonial structures used during the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot, and stumbled upon the Sukkah City site. In 2010, this sukkah design and building contest was held in NYC where contest winners were able to display their fully realized sukkah’s in Union Square for a few days. Here are some photographs of the resulting structures and also reflections on the event:

Check out: and

Great example of a sacred space project that encourages the creative re-imagining of traditional practices and also that fosters community engagement.

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Yestermorrow, Natural Design and Build

This week I returned from a 2 week program at the Yestermorrow Design and Build School in Warren Vermont- the start of winter phase for our community space project. In the class we focused on the philosophy, design, and technical construction behind the Natural Building approach; an integrated style of building that prioritizes sustainable systems, social and ecological integration of building projects, and conscious material use.

The educators at Yestermorrow work to bring together hands-on building and construction experiences with more theoretical and contextual elements of design and its application. Their mixed teaching style helped me to gain a strong grasp on the material and also provided me with a rich context for this emerging design movement. Beyond the specified content for the course, the class was also a great chance to observe strategies for group/ project management conducted by instructors and a thoughtful group of fellow students.

In particular we focused in on:

  • The anatomy of a building: (Material Options, Foundation, Structure, Insulation, Heat and Moisture Consideration etc.).
  • Siting requirements: (Access, Water, Soils, Slope, Fire, View sheds etc.).
  • Basic design: (Programming for a building, Picking building systems, Climate Considerations, and an overview of some Holistic Design Strategies- Permaculture, Ecological Design, etc.).
  • General context for Natural Building: (Real world examples of natural buildings through field trips and on site building projects, Conversation on the intersection of the natural building and green building movements, etc.).
  • Hard Skills: (Architectural Drafting, Straw-bale, Straw-clay, and Woodchip-clay material preparation and wall construction, Plastering).

The experience helped to clarify some of the questions I had about the parameters of our project and what it might require for a group of untrained students to come together in creating a small, low impact structure. It also gave me a new set of questions and considerations to be aware of as we move forward into the planning phase. Because time and cost to a certain extent are our biggest limiting factors for the project, I am working on design options that employ more user friendly, affordable materials, and allow for flexibility in terms of raising and breaking down the structure. The importance of having a mentor for the building aspect of the project is also an emerging priority, both in terms information sharing and the value of that shared relationship.

I would definitely recommend Yestermorrow programs to other Bennington students interested in exploring environmental stewardship and design and would say that their values are well suited to Bennington’s engaged, interdisciplinary approach.

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Hello Everyone!

Welcome to our Bennington Sacred Space project blog! Check out the About tab for an introduction to our project and for more information about how to get into contact with us.

To the tutorial group- Looking forward to working with you all and to seeing how this work unfolds over the next couple of months. In the meantime, I hope that you all are sharing warm and stirring spaces with your family and friends over the break. I will be returning to one of those places shortly and will be thinking of you all…

Bennington under the snow.

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