Wong Dai Sin Temple
Brigitte Shim Howard Sutcliffe
Monica Leung (Project Lead) Andrew Kimber (Project Lead)
This sacred space is designed for a dynamic Taoist community that practises the development of their inner spiritual development through the ancient physical practise of tai chi. This new temple building demonstrates asymmetry and counterbalance while maintaining its equilibrium much like a measured tai chi pose. This space is inextricably linked to other ancient Wong Dai Sin temples in other part of the world through its manipulation and amplification of natural light, its use of colour and its commitment to a carefully composed and tactile material palette. The daily worship of one of the world’s ancient religions is embedded into the fabric of this modern sacred space. The main façades to the north and south are composed of shaped weathering steel vertical fins that modulate natural light and provide good natural ventilation while also controlling views of the surroundings. The east façade forms one side of an outdoor terrace with dense planting on the other side providing privacy for the neighbouring properties. The sacred space is elevated and supported on a two-way concrete slab integrated with seven poured in place concrete piers tied to robust raft foundation. The two-way post tensioned concrete slab with its 10.2 metre cantilever on the west is counterbalanced by a smaller 5.2 metre cantilever on the east. On the second floor the sacred space is located above the larger cantilever and an outdoor terrace is located above the smaller cantilever. Exposed concrete is also used for two cantilevered staircases on the north east and south east which along with an elevator provides access to the second worship space on the second floor.
The Fung Loy Kok Institute of Taoism is community- oriented volunteer organization located in more than twenty-five countries around the world, who needed a new suburban place of worship to serve its congregants located in suburban Toronto. This new temple is part of the densification of our suburbs through the transformation of the site of a single-family residence into a new sacred space for a growing religious community. This modern sacred space is located on a major arterial road surrounded by cul-de-sac’s lined with oversized McMansions, a gas station and a single storey local shopping mall. Stringent local on-site parking requirements for any new place of worship necessitated elevating the worship space above grade in order to provide sufficient surface parking below. From the street, the Wong Dai Sin Temple gives the appearance of being both heavy and light; the major volume hovers above the ground using a two-way concrete cantilevered structural slab providing a generous protected outdoor space below for collective activities and the sacred space above. Permeable pavers used for the parking court provides the opportunity for a large tai chi practise space and an outdoor room for community gatherings. There is an exemplary and fully integrated approach to site sustainability through careful selection of plant material and an integrated site drainage system including permeable pavers and cisterns ensure that no site water enters the overburdened municipal storm water system.
The main prayer space of the Wong Dai Sin Temple is used for chanting, meditation and ceremonial events. Modulating light is explored in this sacred space through the design of custom light monitors that shape and articulate the light entering the space. The bright red light monitors also support spiral coils of incense used as part of their daily religious rituals. A constellation of light monitors is carefully positioned on a deep blue celestial ceiling plane. At the entrance to this place of worship, one is greeted by an intimate alcove with a wrap around bench and fireplace. Custom designed altars are designed with integrated Chinese calligraphy characters to honour the Wong Dai Sin deity. Computer-assisted fabrication of the Chinese characters is combined with hand applied gold leaf inside each character linking and tying the modern and ancient worlds together. The most introverted space in the Wong Dai Sin Temple is its memorial hall which is a space allowing congregants to honour their ancestors. Bamboo memorial plaques lined this internal wooden room which provides a place for quiet contemplation and the possibility of leaving offerings of gratitude to loved ones.