ΖEN CENTER KAISANJI

Kaisanji, the temple (ji) of the mountain (san) and of the sea (kai), is located on the island of Serifos, near Kalo Ambeli beach. Due to the land’s distinctive natural beauty, gentle and limited construction and its unobstructed views of the sea, the island is an ideal location for the establishment of a Zen Monastery.

Kaisanji, will comprise of spaces for teaching and practicing zazen such as a Zendo, a Hato and an outdoor bell area. Also, it will include rooms for the monks (cells), hospitality rooms for guests and a restauration area. The main objective is for Kaisanji to be able to become an autonomous and self-sustained institution, by functioning also as a vacation home during the summer season,  and therefore financially contributing to its yearly running expenses.

The architectural design is influenced by Japanese culture and tradition as well as, by the island’s idiosyncratic dwellings, and focuses on enhancing calmness, simplicity and equilibrium with nature. In an effort to redefine the relationship between human and nature the design utilizes the provided natural elements. Planted rooftopsallow the vegetation to become a structural part of the construction, as they become integrated with the stonestructures.

In addition to plants, water is another natural element found in various forms in Kaisanji, such as the Hato lake and the flowing stream that follows the natural slope of the ground and reaches the waterfall. The starting point of the waterstream  is the Zen garden, which follows the architectural vocabulary of a Japanese garden, by interconnecting the water element, the rocks and the pebbles through a circular pattern.

The element of water further enhances the prevailing, innate sense of calmness while the soft sounds of the stream lead the visitor, gradually and spontaneously from the entrance and the Hato, towards the bell and into the core of the monastery, the Zendo. Based on the principle of perpetual movement, the energy created during the movement of flowing water (in combination with an external source of energy) is reused to push it back to the starting point.

An interesting challenge was established by combining the two architectural traditions into the morphology of the buildings. The scale followed the traditional architectural style of the island, characterized by small building volumes and low heights. This deconstruction of the building spaces into sub-sections contributed to a gentle intervention in the landscape and the achievement of the balance between the artificial  and the natural.

In the overall, the architectural vocabulary of Kaisanji adopts elements from both Japanese and local architecture, redefining them according to modern design. Local natural materials such as stone (xerolithia technique) are entwined with reed and wood, as a direct reference to Japanese architecture. The use of natural materials reduces the imprint of the buildings in the landscape while at the same time, it creates the impression of imperfection, an element found in both architectural traditions.

The interior design is clearly influenced by Japanese zen meditation spaces, using wood to form perforated partition panels, consisting of repetitive vertical elements that filter the natural light. The game of light and shadow outlines the spatial resonance, as well as the dynamics and variability of the space under the  rays of light. In addition, with the use of perforated partitions, there is also a gradual transition from the absolutely bright outdoors environment, to a shaded interior. The second light source of both private and public spaces is achieved with the use of vertical openings that provide indirect lighting, while preserving privacy and maintaining the original character of the interior, in the living and meditation areas.

The concept of  “in-between” and the  filtering of light are key elements for Japanese architecture and Japanese meditation spaces. In this regard, the Zendo consists of a meditation area and an entrance hall, opening onto the exterior natural landscape and acting as a ‘threshold’ of  light and sound. The main space is separated from the entrance hall by perforated sliding panels and its main light source is the opening of the roof, above the Buddha statue. This vertical light passage gives a strong mystical character to the meditation room. The dimensions of the Zendo result from the layout created by the tatami, while its design remainedsimple, accessible, practical and therefore convergent  with the essence and philosophy of Zen.