Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
The Ordos MU US Desert Temple in China by Dr. Margot Krasojevic
October 5th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Dr. Margot Krasojevic
The project has been commissioned by the city of Ordos. It is an open Buddhist temple located on the outskirts of the Ordos desert, an area that is currently used for meditation and religious ceremonial offerings, Mongolian Buddhist rituals dictated the design.
Mu US desert has an extreme changing climate whose light levels affect survival and appropriation, an important design criteria. The many salt lakes and sand dunes are scattered with shocks of colourful and unexpected vegetation, these dunes whistle as the winds descend on the desert creating an almost spiritual experience; it is this environment which has suggested the location for a temple. A sporadic series of stone alters and makeshift temples lie within the desert for nomadic peoples however this will act as an ephemeral monument to religious rituals and ceremonies..
In Chinese Taoist and Buddhist temples incense burns as a way of purifying the community and its physical environment as well as meditation, a temple’s inner spaces are scented with thick coiled incense, which are either hung from the ceiling or on special stands. The main idea behind the form is the unwinding of smoke and incense, the incense is composed of aromatic herbs and plants found in the Ordos desert. These incense coils are extruded as bells which can burn from hours to days, and is commonly produced and used by Chinese/Mongolian culture; this was the formal strategy using a coiled unwinding form which reflects not only the ever changing environment but the smoke associated with incense burning rituals contributing to the meditative quality of the building.
The inner structural core contains the Buddhas which become more and more evident as the worshiper walks around the design. Striated sections act as a veil similar to that of as smoke filled room, glimpses and views of the statues as well as the meditation areas give an ephemeral feel to the design. The worshiper walks around in ever decreasing circles eventually becoming closer to the Buddhas and the prayer/meditation area. Offerings are left on ledges which are a part of the main structure, they are a part of the entire scheme stretching out and across creating a series of winding elements that define the route through the design as well as the ceremonial rituals that are taking place.
The main structure consists of a steel core off which an highly polished series of steel and alluminium elements unwrap, they are cantilevered giving the idea of floating, a series of suspended materials which float like smoke defining areas into which the congregation can gather or find smaller more intimate areas to make offerings. Originally the design was to include the ancient ritual of sky burials as a nod to what up until recently was a common practice within Mongolia and Tibet, the practice itself continues but not a soften as during pre-Communist reign.
The fluid nature of the design allows for the size of spaces to be modified as and when required.
Ordos has a very strong identity regardless of the political and social changes it has faced, the practices are ingrained within the environment and etched into the people and their culture regardless of the latest extreme planning and architectural interventions the desert is not carte blanche and should never have been treated as such.
Culture embraces change but becomes impervious when that change is redundant of environment and ritual.
Contact Dr. Margot Krasojevic
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