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27.03.2014
Following OAC’s win on the international design competition and completion of the master plan for Famen Temple Zen Meditation Centre in 2012, the London-based Office for Architectural Culture recently completed the schematic designs for the buildings, landscape, and experiential features and art installations for meditation in the first phase of the project called the ‘Eightfold Path Forest’. The project is part of the new cultural master plan development on the site of the renowned 1,800 year-old Famen Buddhist Temple (aka Dharma Gate Temple) outside Xi’an, China.
This is one of the largest architectural and landscape commissions in the world focused around an historic religious temple. Buddhist Cultural Interactive Museum, which also houses a 1,500-seat theatre for performing arts alongside its exhibition use, marries Buddhist principles, original Zen Buddhist concepts of Tang Dynasty, and its geographic relationship with the Earth. Zen Eco Museum, which includes one of the energy centres serving the development, demonstrates the religion’s ecological and environmental principles, as well as the development’s commitments to sustainable communities.
The two religious Manuscript-copy Halls are organised using simple geometries and symmetry, linked by a meditative tunnel aimed to bring people into the meditative state of mind. The project’s Xi’an-based client Qujiang Group, who realised several UNESCO and National Heritage sites in China, are planning to commence the construction of the project’s 1km square first phase in the second half of this year. The project design team is led by Design Director Charles Phu and Management Director Roger Whiteman. The key members include Associate Director Oliver Hempel, and Amelia Payton, Giedre M Kristaponyte, Ariadna Roca, Paul Browning, Umberto Lusso, Matthew Yip and Carlos Agelet de Saracibar. The renowned London-based artist Yomei Chiang and Germany-based artist Philippe Devaud, along with OAC design team, have designed 10 meditative art installations during the schematic design phase.


British landscape architect David Blackwood Murray and landscape consultant City Design provided Landscape expertise. This forest surrounds the renowned historic temple’s 148m new Namaste Dagoba where the world’s only Buddha Sakyamuni’s finger bone relic is preserved today. It is the place which has successfully preserved the world’s only Buddha Sakyamuni’s finger bone relic since the 2nd century AD to date. This high profile project will draw international pilgrims from China, and from across the world to experience Buddhism through the design of buildings and landscape. Our designs for outdoor spaces and buildings will bring Buddhist pilgrims and visitors into a state of meditative mind without them being aware of it, and will inspire people with Buddhist Zen philosophies, ethics and way of life through an experience of six senses instead of through formal or descriptive approaches. Whilst the orientation of the building is 9.5 degrees northwest from the true north, the central gallery and theatre, located underground, are orientated to the true north with a perfect 2-dimensional symmetry. Shelves for historic manuscripts and archives form part of the architectural space of each hall, providing a peaceful yet sacred atmosphere for this Buddhist meditative activity. The installations are designed according to the philosophy of each quarter of the sacred ‘Eightfold Path Forest’ so that meditators will be naturally brought into the meditative state of mind to understand and ultimately reach the eight wisdoms of the Eightfold Path while meditating.
Ramboll (London) provided advisory support in sustainability and building services of the project.
As the imperial temple in the powerful Tang Dynasty at the peak of the ancient Silk Road era, it is considered a holy place amongst Buddhist pilgrims around the world today.


It includes the 1km square ‘Eightfold Path Forest’, four museums and a performing arts theatre, manuscript-copy halls, several large venues for meditation activities, a Buddhist academy, an art complex, a music complex, a concert hall, a 5-star Zen-theme boutique hotel and a 5-star hotel, and over a thousand meditation lodges for meditators.
It’s so-called Wisdom of Contemplation – the highest wisdom in Buddhism and the most difficult to reach.
This allows visitors to experience through a series of experiential contrasts, which end with a performing arts space with religiousness, sacredness, purity and richness.
Museum consultant Real Studios have been engaged to assist in setting out experience intervention strategies. The Famen Temple Meditation Centre project OAC has been commissioned to design, has a total 1,250,000 m2 site area and 300,000 m2 building floor areas. The spaces, buildings and environment we have created for this project form the ‘circumstances’ to help people reach such a state of mind. The theatre is designed to have performances and religious ceremonial events that are interactive with audiences. The design of the theatre for performing arts in the Buddhist Cultural Museum is advised by London-based theatre consultant Theater Plan and German acoustics consultant Mueller BBM.



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