Vajrasana Buddhist Retreat Centre

Suffolk, United Kingdom


Walters and Cohen

Dh Chintamani (Jonathan Weiss)

James Newton

Architecture + Environment

Shrine Room

The Vajrasana Retreat Centre is the rural outpost of the London Buddhist Centre. Architects Walters & Cohen invited us to design a high impact yet suitably reverent lighting scheme for both the rupa of Buddha and it’s setting - the main Shrine Room. The lighting is designed in layers that form 9 distinct scenes, to accommodate adjustments in emphasis and atmosphere for the different rituals and uses of the space.

The Shrine Room is used for meditation and teaching. It is home to the magnificent 3m-high gilded rupa, mounted on a plinth and set into a gold-painted apse. Speirs + Major responded to the ideas of the sculptor Dh. Chintamani (Jonathan Weiss) by highlighting its form and face, while also creating a glowing ‘aura’ that would seem to emanate from Buddha itself. Lit in this way, the head of the rupa appears to blend into the background, and the overall appearance is befittingly transcendental.

To create the glow and to soften shadowing, recessed miniature LEDs set in the back and shoulders of the statue shine onto the rear wall of the apse. The front spotlighting is directed from a semi-concealed recessed slot in the ceiling above. This slot also houses remote-controlled spotlights for lighting the teaching positions on either side of the plinth.

The room itself features an 8 metre high ceiling, with perforated brickwork clerestory that enlivens the space with natural light. We added flexible supplementary general lighting with an array of custom pendants in a bronze finish complementary to the architectural palette. These offer independently controlled upward and downward distribution so that light levels and ambience can be adapted, and a direct view of the light source from underneath can be avoided if necessary.

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