AR Awards for Emerging

Honourable mention


Buddhist retreat

Sri Racha, Thailand

December 2006
Of all the major religions, the ancient tenets of Buddhism place perhaps the most explicit importance on living in harmony with nature. Here in the dense Thai jungle, these principles are put diligently and poetically into practice in a project for a community of Buddhist monks seeking to retreat from the modern world and find solace in the spiritual. As architect Suriya Umpansiriratana puts it, 'The idea is to transform the abstract essence of Buddhism into architecture'.
Great care was taken to disturb the forested site as little as possible. Individual monks' cells (kutis) are dispersed across the lush slopes in an interconnected network largely dictated by the presence of mature trees. At the heart of the complex is a central courtyard with a communal meditation space and lodgings for visiting senior monks, who instruct and inspire the community. Buildings are compact, timber framed and utterly austere in form and furnishings, symbolising the importance of a modest life to Buddhist teachings. Walkways and verandas threaded through the trees provide vantage points for the contemplation of nature, and rich terracotta walls further emphasise the manmade's connection with the earth. Though the architecture is necessarily simple and understated, the jury were moved by the project's wider resonances with nature, humanity and the divine. C. S.

Suriya Umpansiriratana, Bangkok
Project team
Suriya Umpansiriratana, Nattapon Nimlamai, Pirak Anurakyawachon
1, Skyline Studio; 2, Spaceshift Studio
Tel ; fax