The American Buddhist Cultural Society (ABCS) announced last week that it has broken ground for a six-story temple on San Francisco’s Van Ness Avenue. The new temple will have room for an expansive shrine room, a bookstore, art gallery, bamboo courtyard, and tea house, as well as office space for administrative staff and a dining hall.
The space will also host classrooms, a terrace, and a custom-built meditation room. Dormitories for visiting monastics will also be a part of the structure.
ABCS has occupied its current one-story building since 1989, hosting Fo Guang Shan San Bao Temple and the ABCS bookstore. It stands next to St. Luke’s Catholic Church, which traces its history to 1868.
Venerable Master Hui Zhi of the ABCS said that in building the new temple, the organization “hopes to teach the Dharma through architecture. We need to go beyond words to achieve transcendence.” (SF YIMBY)
The building is designed by Chicago-based architectural, urban planning, and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). The company highlights its role in creating buildings that are low- or zero-emission, having completed its first net-zero-energy building in New York City in 2015. In November 2022, SOM announced that they were a net-zero-emissions business globally, meaning that all of their greenhouse emissions are offset by greenhouse gas capture or removal.
“In sharing this report, our hope is to inspire measurable action in our industry to mitigate the effects of climate change,” said design principal and a leader of SOM’s Climate Action Group Yasemin Kologlu. “Through our built work, by 2040, every project we design should achieve net zero carbon, which is essential to cutting carbon emissions generated by buildings.” (SOM)
In building the new temple, Indiana limestone will be used in conjunction with natural wood. Panels made of colored bronze-anodized aluminum will create shade and moving light in front of the tall windows.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, SOM consulting design partner Craig Hartman declared: “Our aspiration is beauty. . . A beauty that follows the teaching of [the] Buddha in its underlying modesty, its respect for its neighbors, and its welcome for all.” (SF YIMBY)
The blend of high ceilings and tall windows with the various courtyards is aimed at blending indoor and outdoor spaces into one fluid sanctuary for Buddhist practitioners and visitors.
Hartman continued: “The architecture’s internal spaces will offer a quiet, contemplative respite—a step removed from our phones, screens, and hectic urban environment. These spaces will bring the outside, in, through intimate gardens and landscaped courts. Nature and humanism will be united through the use of modest natural materials, tactility, and the poetics of light.” (WebWire)
ABCS and Sam Bao Temple are part of the Fo Guang Shan tradition, founded in 1967 by Ven. Master Hsing Yun in Taiwan. The organization practices Humanistic Buddhism, known for blending aspects of Pure Land and Chan (Zen) in ways aimed at being better suited to the modern world.
Fo Guang Shan has been very successful in spreading beyond Taiwan, opening branches in 50 countries. In 1990, Master Hsing Yun founded the University of the West, a non-sectarian university in Rosemead, California. The organization’s lay wing, Buddha’s Light International Association, was established in 1992.
SOM Releases Climate Action Report, Achieves Net Zero Emissions (SOM)
Groundbreaking For American Buddhist Cultural Society In San Francisco (SF YIMBY)
American Buddhist Cultural Society Breaks Ground in San Francisco (WebWire)
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