The Wood Temple comprises three interconnected, single-story wood structures totaling 2,700 square feet. The temple complex is raised four feet above the ground on bronze-sheathed helical piles and has a roof height of 22 feet. The structure sits on a ridge sloping gently to Long Island Sound.
The owner, designers and builders of the project believe that the built environment directly impacts well being and, more broadly, the spirit. They therefore chose wood as the dominant building material because of its known therapeutic qualities and its significant carbon sequestration.
The temple’s express purpose is to foster, in an ecumenical way, spiritual growth. Wood, through its historical connection to the great temples of Japan, was the natural choice of material.
The temple is also heavily influenced by the European and Indian traditions. Its layout along the east-west axis was determined using Vastu, an ancient Indian architectural system used to create positive energies in buildings. The raised floor, cantilevered roof, and open plan pay homage to Japan’s influence on modern architecture while contributing significantly to the building’s atmospheric quality. At the same time, the temple reflects 21st century design by exposing the CLT structure as a form of ornament and decoration.
The complex is 98% wood by weight. The exposed structure is German and Canadian CLT while the insulation is the renewable bark of the cork tree. The builders sourced and milled dead standing Dutch Elm and Black Walnut for the siding and floors respectively. The massive stair treads are Black Locust and White Oak and give the building a solid footing despite its light appearance. The deck is Black Locust, sustainably harvested from farmed trees in the region of Utica, NY.
The builders chose these diverse woods not only for their specific effects on the temple’s appearance, but also for their connection to sustainable wood harvesting traditions in the northeast and worldwide. Only the “waste wood” of the Black Walnut was used – those sections containing both hardwood and sapwood – which would normally have gone for firewood. The Dutch Elm, killed some fifty years ago by the Dutch Elm disease, were again diverted from firewood use and milled to create the rustic aesthetic of the building’s exterior.
There is no concrete nor gypsum nor drywall used in the temple, neither in its footings nor its structure, proving that usable wood resources are all around us and ready for use.
October 8, 2016