Temple of mindfulness

Thank you for the front and back page engaging story "Buddhist temple opens" (June 17). What a credit to the citizens of Ashland that Lamas Pema and Yeshe encouraged by Lodru Rinpoche brought their vision to reality. At an open house for donors, the Lamas thanked architect Carlos Delgado, who designed the building, builder John Fields, as well as Clay Colley, who coordinated the numerous volunteers, along with many others who helped bring about this generous facility as a gift to humanity.

Reading John Darling's article, through the eyes of an architect, I was struck by the absence of credit for architect of record Carlos Delgado. In the United States the role of architects as form givers is frequently passed over or misunderstood. In Kagyu Sukha Chöling, Delgado deserves credit for skillfully bringing forward the indigenous idiom of Tibetan architecture and incorporating it into a temple for our time that clearly identifies its lineage, while being harmonious with its neighbors, as well as being energy efficient and built to last for generations.

This is no easy task, I have experienced firsthand the profound challenges of successful architectural design. To design a building of merit and integrity like Kagyu Sukha Choling, an architect must be a Renaissance person of many talents — a diplomat to communicate effectively with the client and multiple inter-disciplinary colleagues, not to mention builders and building officials, through the innumerable complex issues involved in the design, detailing, execution and financing of such a building project. Architects cannot fulfill the needs of the user while shaping the structure appropriately and gracefully without a broad knowledge of history and culture. In addition, an architect must understand structural and mechanical engineering and a host of other disciplines.

Since ancient times, critics have wrestled with guidelines. In the first century BCE, Roman architect Vitruvius wrote that a building must be solid, useful and beautiful. Frank Lloyd Wright, who cut his teeth in the Chicago School under Louis Sullivan and went on to create the uniquely American "Prairie Houses," coined the phrase, "Form follows function." Ludwig Mies van der Rohe of the Bauhaus and International School pledged, the oft-forgotten, "Less is more."

The lack of an indigenous architecture as a foundation has posed a challenge for architects in North America, leading to borrowing of styles from other times and places. Chicago architects Sullivan and Richardson drew from the Renaissance Palazzos of 14th century Florence for the first American skyscrapers; The Classic Revival was derived from Greek and Roman architecture; Frank Lloyd Wright and the brothers Green and Green developed the Craftsman Style from the comfy Arts and Crafts Movement in England; West Coast towns like San Francisco, Ferndale and Ashland were styled from pattern books of Victorian Carpenter Gothic designs. Here in Ashland on Bear Creek, horribly kitsch Tudor half-timber was, until recently, considered fitting for commerce. To add to the hodgepodge of styles in 1925 the dream of an impressive hotel, like those in the big cities back East, brought us the Mark Anthony Hotel (Lithia Springs) in violation of Main Street's cozy scale. All across America, Los Angeles' own "Googie Architecture" brought us themes like Taco Bell or the arches of McDonald's.

My hat is off to the Lamas of Kagyu Sukha Chöling, architect Carlos Delgado, consulting architect Joyce Ward, contractor John Field, volunteer coordinator Clay Colley and the entire team for a superb job of meeting today's needs with a building that fulfills Vitruvius' challenge of Firmness, Fitness and Delight, Wright's Form Follows Function and even the restraint of Mies' Less is More.

Retired architect John Fisher-Smith has lived in Ashland for 28 years.

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