October 25, 2007


First post. We hope you enjoy the blog.

Exciting progress these days: most recently, a meeting by board members with architect Linda Keane. Linda and her husband Mark are architects, professors, Prairie School experts and animators. He's Director of the Frank Lloyd Wright initiative at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.

We had a good talk. She expressed their passion for preserving regional styles of architecture. The nature of our temple project appeals, she said. We had ourselves hit upon local architectural traditions as a likely path to go down: early on we knew we had no desire to simply recreate a Japanese-style temple here. A Kamakura or Muromachi period sodo (monk's hall) doesn't live on a Wisconsin bluff or in a Michigan grove. The question we've had from the beginning - "How might a native temple architecture look?" - continues to be an interesting wrestle. But being in Chicago, it was natural to hit upon the Prairie School as a possible inspiration.

After meeting Linda we feel more strongly that this was correct. Preliminary sketches she'd brought reveal buildings that look as if they might have sprouted directly from local soil. They have that Prairie School solidity of form that is, well, very midwestern...even as they flow into and from the land on which they sit. Like the Japanese forms, they aren't walls enclosing square footage so much as points of fluid transition between inner and outer space.

If you've ever visited some of the Kyoto temples or a traditional Japanese inn, you know this feeling. Visiting the hojo (abbot's quarters) at Tenryuji, you don't feel that the garden pond outside is apart from the room in which you sit to view it. It's much like being in a surf zone, really: when you stand knee-deep in waves, you don't feel you're in a "place" at all (and certainly not at any kind of static boundary between land and water). You understand, rather, that you're within a serial phenomenon.

We gave Linda some input: minor tweaks reflecting the requirements of monastic use. But in general we felt that they pretty much nailed our vision. "The utopian vision," she dubbed it. Got a chuckle from that: we have to remember to ask future residents how they're enjoying their utopian temple lifestyle of little sleep, much meditation, physical labor and rice gruel. But after a half-hour of visionary talk, her comment did serve to bring us back to earth.

Sure, it's a utopian vision. In one sense, a leaky barn with a wood-burning stove would suffice (especially one of the beautiful Amish barns you see in these parts). But the people involved in our temple project bring so many talents and resources to the table that we can carefully - and excitedly - plan more.

Next draft of drawings will come in a few weeks, followed by the final set. We'll get them up here for you to see.

Here's Mark and Linda's site. Google them as well.


Anonymous said...

Its great to know that you've found architects that are open to your choices. It sounds as though the project has moved along quite well. Will you eventually post renderings of the project?

Rinzai Heartland said...

Yes, the renderings will be posted; we're looking forward to giving everyone something that will make the project more concrete visually...