Nestled within the serenity of nature stands a round temple filled with light. Its windows accept the bounty from the sun, while its doors welcome people from all walks of life.
This recurring dream that graced Swami Radha since childhood started to come to fruition in 1963 among the towering trees and crystalline waters of Kootenay Bay in British Columbia, Canada. She found the exact spot she had seen for so many years in a dream she called “My Little Temple” and there she founded Yasodhara Ashram, with the envisioned round temple being built many years later in 1992. The 2014 fire that ravaged that sacred temple could have easily marked the end of that dream, but instead it marked a new beginning—and a chance for an architectural marvel to be born.
A Celebration of Light
This exceptionally unique build by Patkau Architects is nothing short of a masterpiece with its unusual form that is emphasized by an abundance of light made possible by the numerous windows, an open ceiling, and an expansive 96-light chandelier. There is zero stagnation with rigid lines as even the straight edges of this design are slanted, giving the illusion of gentle movement. A general feeling of rhythmical fluidity can be felt throughout and heavily contributes to the temple’s overall calming aesthetic.
“The intention of the project is not to dominate the sight, it’s to become part of the sight.”- Luke Stern, Patkau Architects
The 8 petal-like panels that sculpt this curvaceous temple are noteworthy for their form alone, however, it isn’t just the revolutionary shape that we admire about this build—it’s also the commitment to minimally impact the nature surround. The timber panels were not only prefabricated offsite by Spearhead Inc., but they were designed to work with the light and heat of the sun for maximum energy and heat efficiency. And moving beyond what the eye can see, the foundation is also worth mentioning. The original concrete foundation was undamaged by the fire so it was able to be reused, essentially conserving material and lessening the new build’s impact on the environment. A small glimpse into a few of the many ways this community extended mindfulness into the new build for The Temple of Light.
The lotus is a common symbol used among the yogic and spiritual community that represents divinity, the soul’s purity, and new beginnings, so it feels very fitting that the temple would take this shape. This design’s bright white exterior particularly looks as though it has several petals that are beginning to open, much like a lotus in bloom. Looking at less universal symbolism, each of the 8 exterior petal panels
were also fitted with a door to symbolize Swami Radha’s vision for the temple—a place of welcoming for people from all spiritual paths.
The Temple of Light may be one of the most revolutionary pieces of architecture of our time, but more importantly, this sacred space serves the needs of the Yasodhara Ashram, including encompassing the original temple vision. “Heart of the community” are words that are often used to describe this temple, and for good reason—it is a place of gathering, healing, wellness, and connection that symbolises hope and unity.
Photo Credits: Daniel Séguin / Yasodhara Ashram / Amy Allcock