Designed by San Fransisco-based architects Aidlin Darling Design and constructed by Rammed Earth Works, Stanford University's newly-opened Windover Contemplative Center is a carefully crafted and sustainably built meditative space for students on campus. The building contains the minimal abstract paintings of late Stanford professor Nathan Oliveira, while the grounds feature a reflecting pool and a granite labyrinth amid the greenery.
To ensure that the layered rammed earth walls were not so dark as to diminish the impact of Oliveira’s paintings, Rammed Earth Works developed a unique blend from which to create the walls. They used not only dirt from the site, but also coarse sand, small gravel, crushed rhyolite and decomposed granite — along with two different kinds of cement so as to assuage the concerns of building inspectors.
Landscape architect Andrea Cochran is responsible for the design of the center’s grounds, which feature quiet spaces to relax among a mix of young and old trees, from lanky ginkgos and lofty live oaks. A large, angular reflecting pool posited at the far end of the long, rectangular building, while a granite labyrinth graces the courtyard.
Oliviera, who passed away in 2010, had reportedly idealized that a space such as the Windover Contemplative Center be created as a “sanctuary” in which students could peacefully reflect upon his work. Within the space the soft, natural tones of the walls and the use of filtered light help to enhance a sense of calm.
In case anyone is concerned about modern-day intrusions on a space constructed in such an ancient manner, the University is asking all visitors to refrain from using cellphones, laptops and any other mainstay of contemporary student life.
The response from students has been incredibly positive; speaking to Stanford News Service, senior Pearson Henri expressed that “The interior is very spacious and comfortable,” he said. “The design lends a very naturalistic and ascetic feel to the space. It is a very relaxing place to be and a welcome reprieve from the constant busyness of the Stanford campus. It’s nice to have a place to sit still and breathe deeply.”