Vajrasana Buddhist Retreat Centre

The competition to refurbish and extend the Vajrasana Buddhist Retreat Centre transformed the original retreat – a makeshift collection of farm sheds in the heart of the Suffolk countryside – into a modern haven of spirituality.

The multi-award-winning refurbishment, for which Skelly & Couch carried out the full design of the mechanical, electrical, public health and acoustics, has created accommodation for 60 people, a shrine room, a commercial kitchen and dining facilities. From the outset, there was a strong architectural aspiration for the buildings and landscape to emulate the Buddhist religion, involving close collaboration with the client, the London Buddhist Centre. Owing to the rural setting, it was critical to limit mechanical plant noise, ensure the simplicity of services installations and deliver a high level of environmental comfort and sensitivity.

The shrine room, home to a magnificent gilded Buddha, required low noise, good speech intelligibility, long periods of occupancy at floor level and clearance of incense. Skelly & Couch developed a mechanically-assisted supply and natural exhaust ventilation using a ground coupled duct for tempering the supply air (earth cooling in summer). Sensitive lighting design mimimised light level and intrusion and detailed daylight studies captured the desired effect of changing natural light at different times of the day.

Named 2017 Community & Faith Project of the Year in the inaugural AJ Architecture Awards. Winner of a 2018 Civic Trust Award and 2017 RIBA National Award. Shortlisted for a Selwyn Goldsmith Award and a 2016 World Architecture Festival Award.