Nathanael Werner

Nathanael Werner

Bend, OR, US

meru diagram // regional water movement
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hindu temple: light + dark

Industrial and technological companies like Boeing and Microsoft, attracted many talented engineers from India over the past 30 years.  When a temple was built in Bothell in 2000, the past 10 years has brought a season of rapid growth to where a temple expansion is being considered.  With a generous donation from the Gates Foundation, the community is able to consider this a reality.  The community, recognizing the differences between Hindu sects in India, have accepted a variety of traditional practices creating what’s referred to as an American blend. 

In the same way, there is a desire to pioneer a new precedent in Hindu Temple architecture.  The Hindu community desires to hire skilled masons from India to construct the traditional Shikharas and Gopurams.  The main concept of this design was to create a structure which allowed natural light to wash the surface of the Shikhara, celebrating its ornate beauty and detail under light and shadow.  This effect would be further enhanced through the contrast of the traditionally enclosed, dark prayer hall.  The concrete walls of the temple provide a simple backdrop to the intensity of the Shikharas and Gopurams with an ordered pattern of form work joints and ties providing a contemporary interpretation of details revealed through light and shadow.


Understanding the Shikhara as an abstraction of Mount Meru conjures regional images of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range and the climatic effects they have on the region.  As collectors of moisture they bring water down to sea level in the form of creeks, rivers and lakes prolific to the area. This design abstracts and compares the Shikhara to the regional mountains by collecting the rain which falls on the surfaces of the Shikharas and roof.  To avoid unsightly stains on the concrete walls, the water moves down the grooves of the form work to a reveal between the floor and wall.  The water eventually flows to a pool at the entry before moving west to the existing seasonal creek on the property.


In keeping with the astrological significance between the placement of Shikharas and Gopurams inside a prescribed alignment, this cosmic grid was used to maintain a relationship between the temple walls and location of the Shikharas.  The adjacent, new Cultural Center also follows this grid.


The temple is placed at the center of the site, relating to the cosmic center of the mandala, with an eastern entry. Two ramps from the northern or southern parking lots bring visitors down an elevation of four feet to the entry defined by a break in an eight foot concrete wall.  By bringing the visitors below street level and using a wall to surround the temple the they are able to focus on the space entered rather than the distractions of traffic and nearby residences. They also become aware of a relational comparison between the trees nearby and the  Shikharas.  After the removal of shoes and performing one’s ablutions the visitor crosses a water threshold and up a series of steps to the main temple level.  After passing through the Gopuram, the shrines in the background glow within the dark prayer hall. After paying respects to the deities, the visitor then circumnavigates the shrine, then the temple.  During the circumnavigation of the temple, it is revealed that the temple wall is not continuous, but has floor to ceiling windows along the cosmic axis correlating to the location of each Shikhara.  At the center of temple is a communal space for festivals and congressional celebrations, separated from the prayer hall by a slight elevation drop and the severing of roof and wall masses. 

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Status: School Project
Location: Bothell, WA, US

conceptual section
model view
temple from north parking lot
temple enclosure
temple enclosure
temple entry
prayer hall
south temple wall
community hall
cultural center // dining area with temple beyond