Completed in 1992 and ravaged by a fire in 2014, the striking Temple of Light at British Columbia’s rebuilt Yasodhara Ashram yoga retreat and study centre is open once again. On June 23, an opening ceremony inaugurated the renewed space, designed by Vancouver’s Patkau Architects, with over 700 people in attendance.
In Archinect, an interview with Patkau Architects sheds more light on the unique design for the newly re-opened Temple of Light:
John Patkau stated that the Yasodhara Ashram’s Temple of Light “will certainly be the most remarkable thing that we’ve constructed.” What is it about the design and construction of the temple that makes it so remarkable?
The Temple of Light employs a unique system that was developed through design research at Patkau Architects. The structure is primarily wood and almost entirely prefabricated off site in modular units. While the surfaces of the building curve continuously along multiple axes, their constituent parts are built of straight engineered timber. The design minimizes complex joinery, and yet the assembly is a highly sophisticated combination of CNC milling and hand craftsmanship, executed by Spearhead Timberworks. The dome-like volume is a combination of a ribbed vault and an integral shell, with the prefabricated wooden modules working together like stones in and arch.
What were some of the digital techniques used for this design?
Design, documentation, fabrication, and construction rely on a custom parametric algorithm that simulates material constraints in 3D digital space. This design platform, which is the product of multiple experimental projects, produces a kind of malleable digital membrane with embedded limitations and possibilities that are derived from the dimensions and strengths of actual materials. It is an open-ended platform, unconstrained by the programmatic concerns that governed the Temple of Light. It enables a high degree of freedom in form finding while keeping the structural system integral to the form, as opposed to a fully free form-finding process that is later accommodated with elaborate structure.
A more detailed look at the June 23 opening ceremony is available via the Nelson Star, linked here.
The full version of the Patkau Architects interview can be found via Archinect, linked here.