Quan Nyen Tran

Quan Nyen Tran

Alexandria, VA, US


Center for the Human Spirit_Master Thesis

“Guinevere: This is heaven for me.  
Lancelot: I don’t believe in heaven. I’ve been living in this hell.  
     But if you represent what heaven is, then take me there...”                  
                                                                    -King Arthur (2004)

The dialog above captures Lancelot’s melancholy, yet suggests that within the dark sense of himself and the world, there is a seed of light and hope for a brighter reality. This is the seed that needs to be planted and nourished at Sutro Baths, San Francisco, California. Similar to our physical body as we age, Sutro Baths is in a crumbling state of deterioration. The excitement and memories of Sutro Baths are being swept by time, water and wind. Once filled with light, energy and excitement, the site, is now an evocative ruin. The evocativeness comes from the sublime coexistence of cliff, ruin and ocean – each a potential site for discovery of the human self and for an evocative architecture to house this discovery.

My thesis is The Center for the Human Spirit at Sutro Baths in San Francisco, California. The Center for the Human Spirit consists of three major programs: an exhibition space, meditation space, and a retreat. The Center for the Human Spirit will help preserve and enhance the experience of Sutro Baths and create a space that will transform its users into people who treat themselves, others, and nature with compassion.

The first major program is called The Remnant Exhibition of Time. This exhibition space revolves around the sensory system, starting with an exterior amphitheater, set along the level of the remaining ruins. The exhibition then enters through the existing tunnel that lead towards the bathhouse, tucked inside the concave side of the cliff. The exhibition space is about Love

Unlike the exhibition space that deals with the corporeal and the appearance of things, The Sanctuary for the Transcendental is a meditation space that focuses on activities to elevate one’s metaphysical state of being. To evoke such an experience, the space is cantilevered from an existing ledge, with steps leading down into the ocean, and takes in the view of the infinite horizon, the silent white noise of nature, and the ambient setting sun. The meditation space is about Wisdom.

The last major program is called The Retreat for the Potential Self. It is nested in the very heart of Sutro Baths. Set alongside a structural ruin, the Retreat takes in views of the remaining ruins with the infinite horizon as the backdrop. Rooted inside the Retreat are spaces that consist of minimal necessity for living and a transparent ceiling open to the sky above. The retreat is about Life .

The Center for the Human Spirit will help preserve this magnificent site in addition to breathing new Love, Life, and Wisdom into it for many generations to experience, share, and cherish

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Status: School Project
Location: San Francisco, CA, US