Last year we received one of the most unusual commissions of Beausoleil Architects’ 30 year history, a new Jain Temple and Meditation complex in the rural hills above Milpitas.
In our research, we learned that Jainism is an ancient religion, related to but not the same as Hinduism, centered on the idea of non-violence, non-possessiveness, and non-absolutism. Jains are vegetarian and take great pains not to harm any living creatures, even ants on a construction site. They believe that all souls are equal and do not follow a caste system.
The congregation had purchased a former horse ranch on a lovely hillside site and wanted a very green, sustainable, durable project that would last for generations. The temple building would be designed and fabricated of delicate hand carved stone in India and shipped here for construction on a structural frame meeting local structural building codes. They also wanted a meditation / community hall where cultural events, classes and lectures could take place. Jains ideally like their worship places to be in beautiful, peaceful surroundings, and the design would want to include outdoor meditation spaces and lush landscaping.
Because of the rural site – which County policies wanted to keep as rural as possible – there were many restrictions on how the site was used and many submittal requirements for the project. We spent the first few months ascertaining the requirements, making sure there were no ‘deal breakers’ which would hinder our clients from they intended use of the site, and putting together a team of consultants to do the work.
As we often say, one of the architect’s roles – besides designing buildings – is to act as the “conductor” of the team of consultants needed to do a large, complicated project. The team we eventually assembled – just for the basic planning submission – included landscape architects, civil engineers, an arborist, traffic engineers, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers, geologists, septic system engineers, a well consultant, biologists, and structural engineers, as well as our counterpart architect in India who designed the temple building.
The project proceeded slowly as we worked with the congregation’s building committee to establish their program and working with the consultant team. We analyzed the site and established basic locations for the buildings and parking. As often happens, some of the very early, loose sketches were the ones that were eventually developed into the final designs.
The temple building is the ‘jewel’ in the middle of the site, a location that shows off its stunning, intricately carved façade to the congregation, while also hiding it from the valley floor, per the County’s requirements.
Our own contributions, the meditation and community hall and the restroom building, are designed as slick, modern structures, low key so as not to detract from the temple.
The landscape design creates a green oasis in the brown East Bay hills, irrigated by a combination of well water and rainwater harvesting from the buildings and pavements.
Last week our work came to fruition as we submitted the project to Santa Clara County for Architecture and Site Approval and Use Permit. Wish us and the Digambar Jain Sangh community well!