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The Windhover Contemplation Center: Unification of Landscaping, Art and Architecture

This refuge near Stanford University is a prime example of how to use natural elements to create a meditative environment.

The hustle and bustle at a university can be stressful at times, especially when one needs to think clearly in order to get things done. Students and professors who are doing lots of brainwork, need some sort of timeout to come down and let the mind rest. The Winhover Contemplative Center near Stanford University, California, is a place constructed especially for replenishing and invigorating the spirit. To achieve this, the Aidlin Darling Design studio combined the arts of landscaping, architecture and painting.

The sanctuary is located in the heart of the campus on a former parking lot adjacent to a natural oak grove. The extended progression to the building’s entry through a long private garden, sheltered from its surroundings by a line of tall bamboo, allows members of the Stanford community to shed the outside world before entering the sanctuary. Within, the space opens fully to the oak grove to the east and the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden beyond.

Thick rammed earth walls and wood surfaces further heighten the visitor’s sensory experience acoustically, tactilely, olfactorily, as well as visually.  The walls of the Contemplation Center are hung with five large paintings by Nathan Oliveira, a former art professor at Stanford. His work was inspired by kestrels, flying peacfully in the sky above the campus.

Water, in conjunction with landscape, is used throughout as an aid for contemplation; fountains within the main gallery and the courtyard provide ambient sound while a still reflecting pool to the south reflects the surrounding trees.  Exterior contemplation spaces are integrated into the use of the center, allowing views to the natural surroundings as well as to the paintings within.  From the oak grove to the east, visitors can view the paintings glowing within the center without accessing the building, effectively creating a sanctuary for the Stanford community day and night.

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