The Sonoma Ashram Foundation was founded by Baba Harihar Ramji, from the ancient lineage of Avadhut Siddhas of Kashi.  The organization has built an orphanage, a school, an ecology center and clinic in Varanasi, India.  Their land in Sonoma County, California serves as Baba’s center in the west.  There was a house on the property when the land was purchased.  They built a yoga studio, a small temple and shop.  Baba asked me to design a  residence for him and his attendant on the rear of the property, beyond the temple and fire puja altar.

The building program called for two bedrooms (one at either end of the building), office, library, modest kitchen, bathrooms, laundry and plenty of storage.  In the center the building Baba wanted a “Darshan Hall,” a place where his community of about 20 people could gather for teachings, meditation and spiritual practice.  The hall can be entered from the office/ library, from the kitchen, from Baba’s suite or directly from the gardens on the east side.  A large glass bifold door allows the whole east wall of the Hall to open up to the garden, where a larger group can spill over.

A colonnade walkway connects the rooms, similar to traditional ashrams in India.

Baba’s bedroom has a meditation alcove with windows overlooking a man-made lotus pond.

The planned structural system is “Perform Wall” ICF (insulated concrete forms), one of my favorite structural systems. With stucco on the exterior and American clay plaster on the interior, the 12″ thick walls have the look and feel of adobe or Mediterranean brick and plaster.  Arches are easily constructed.  The walls have a good R-value and plenty of thermal mass.  The concrete floors will be radiantly heated (with hot water), which is an excellent way to heat a building with a large footprint.

I don’t often make digital 3-D models.  Unfortunately 3-d modeling involves entering a great deal of information,which takes time (thus money).  Although clients like to “walk around” inside the model, few want to pay the extra cost.  The Sonoma Ashram project, Phurba Mandala, and other temples require extensive fundraising.  3-D models work well for presentations, brochures, and such, but do little to actually contribute to the construction of buildings.

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