Mahabodhi Temple

Completed (2014)

Finalist Entry for World Architecture Festival 2015

(Category: Completed Projects – Religious Building)


Originally founded in 1969, the monastery was redeveloped with the intention of creating a modern centre for Buddhist practice and culture, with a special focus on Buddhist art. The facade design was inspired by the golden colours and geometric patterns found on the cassock, or robe, of Buddhist monks. This pattern was in turn originally derived from the traditional patchwork of monk’s robes called “福田“ in Mandarin Chinese, which literally translates as “rice paddies”. The facade was conceived of as a robe or shawl enveloping the inner building, evocative of the humble rice paddy, while at the same time enriched through the use of golden onyx . The onyx is constructed as a double panel with LED lighting inside, producing a warm glow reminiscent of traditional Chinese lanterns. This glow is a welcoming beacon to the community, in line with the Monastery’s goal of establishing itself as a community centre. The modern design, much like the original tenets of modernism, deliberately departs from tradition in order to appeal to all people, regardlesss of ethnicity or culture. In the modern international context of Singapore, the architecture of the temple is a deliberate gesture of welcome.

The raw form faced concrete of the main building acts as a foil to the all white interior of the main hall, and as a simple vessel for the teachings of Buddhism. The pattern of the outer facade is repeated as openings in the thick concrete walls, allowing for back-lit onyx panels to be experienced in the interior of meditation spaces within.

The procession through the building is by way of a series of indoor and outdoor spaces, beginning with the entry between interior and exterior facades. The Buddhist concept of the Eightfold Path is a series of interconnected truths which operate as interdependent dimensions, which together define a complete path. The circulation through the Monastery is inspired by this concept, as functions are interconnected through indoor/outdoor spaces, with continuing views and references to rooms on different levels. Gardens and water features are located on all levels, including a water fall beginning on the 3rd Level and flowing down to the 1st Storey to a water feature surrounding the Main Hall. These transitions through green and aquatic environments provide zones for meditation and rest, allowing for views to private enclosed gardens from every room.

Building Type: Civic & Institution 
Location: 8 Lorong Kilat, Singapore 598114
Client: Mahabodhi Monastery
Site Area: 1,167 sqm 
Status: Completed (2014)
Photography Credits: Sanjay Kewlani (www.skewedeye.com)