This project is about a Yoga Shala proposal submitted in an International Architecture Competition Call. The site is part of a mountain Yoga Retreat Complex located in a breathtaking forest region of central Portugal. The new Yoga Shala building is inspired from the Yoga philosophy, being a spiritual practice rather than a physical exercise. The new development apart from the Shala with an atrium space, consists of the Teahouse cave volume. Both buildings are framed by the biomorphic xeriscaping garden islands, the curvilinear walking concrete stone paths and the cultivation activities levels.
The geometry of the new Yoga Shala has been inspired by the Butterfly Cocoon. The Metamorphosis of the clumsy and worldly caterpillar which transforms through an extraordinary biological process to a graceful Butterfly, is the core idea behind the building form and construction. Yoga practice is a personal journey towards enlightenment and the True Self. It means Connection, and this journey will only be authentic through the conceptualization and realization that everything is interconnected.
The Building program, consists of the new Yoga Shala with an Atrium, the Xeriscape Garden islands, the Stone Teahouse carved in the sloped ground along with the Cultivation Levels. The Teahouse serves as a neutral background, while the organic shaped garden islands define the layout of the circulation paths and seating areas. The Atrium with the Olive Tree, add spatial quality, while the cultivation plantings provide cultivating activities that enhance the experience of the visitors.
The floor plan is organized into the organic shaped volume of the building. There are two independent entrances, one leading to the Shala and the other one to the Xeriscape Atrium. The wide glazing openings allow for natural lighting thus enhancing the warmth and hospitality of the space. The storage of the yoga equipment is incorporated in the wooden structure of the building, under the perimetric seating bench and on shelves constructed between the primary structural beam contours. In the corner of the Yoga Shala, Aerial Yoga Swings may be hanged from the structural Beams supporting this activity with safety.
The form of the new Yoga Shala was produced by the geometric transformations of the model of the Butterfly Cocoon. The complex geometry of the cocoon gently surrounds and hosts the caterpillar throughout its metamorphosis to a brilliant butterfly. The geometric study of the cocoon and its necessary form simplification, was ultimately derived by an iterative process of revolved geometries of a typical cocoon cross section till the birth of the Butterfly.
The structure of the building consists of primary and secondary structural wood contour beams grid, based on the yoga mat width. A horizontal perimetric bench-like shelf constructed by structural wood, reinforce the structure stiffness while serving as a seating bench. The skin of the building is comprised by layers of plywood sheets, thermal insulation and structured titanium panels. The Yoga Shala curved building skin incorporates photovoltaic panels. It has the adequate thermal insulation and a Pasiv Haus construction envelope in order to maximize energy efficiency. The openings allow for adequate natural lighting and aeration. The rainwater and greywater are purified and stored in a water tank.
The Geometry of the Yoga Shala is based on the Butterfly Cocoon Transformation. The form of the Yoga Shala building and its materiality is also connected to the construction of the Vernacular Indian Huts. It has been derived by the revolution in space of a 2D Organic Form Curve along an axis that divides the form in two separate and clearly defined volumes, interconnected with each other to create the Cocoon shaped Shala. Each part of the curve is revolved an angle of 90° in order to create a closed shape. Two overhangs, one in each block, are created by an additional revolution of 30° around the same axis of rotation.
The most demanding feature of the design, was the incorporation of a the bubble shaped, metallic buiding into the forest landscape. The demand for a dynamic and recognizable building form, that would serve as a landmark to the Yoga Retreat site, led to the creation of the organic and biomorphic Yoga Shala.
Vassilis Symeonidis, Architect NTUA
A' Design Awards 2022 (Iron Award), Architect of the Year 2021 (Winner), Architecture MasterPrize Awards 2021 (Honorable Mention), BLT Built Design Awards 2021 (Honorable Mention), LIV Hospitality Design Awards 2021 (Winner), DNA Paris Design Awards 2021 (Winner), S.ARCH Awards 2021 (Winner), World Design Awards 2021 (Runner-up)