Situated high on a hill in the Sonama wine country, Ati Ling was designed to be both a residence for Lamas and a practice center for up to 50 retreatants.  The U-shape, with a courtyard in the middle is traditional for Buddhist monasteries.  The southern orientation with large overhangs was designed for optimum solar gain in the winter while protecting the interior spaces from the hot Sonoma County summer sun.  The 900 sq. ft. shrine room in the center has a curved roofed cupola which brings natural light into the center of the space and acts as a “thermal chimney,” allowing for ventilation of the hot air during the summer.  The dining hall is in the west wing adjacent to a sizable country kitchen.  There are ample covered walkways for additional gathering and eating spaces.  The dining room has a large fireplace and an 6′x10′ insulated “Kalwall Sky-Roof” along the ridge.  There are 4 bedrooms and a 300 sq. ft  library/ office in the west wing.  There are two “public” bathroom (with showers for campers) near the shrine room and a third bathroom in the private west wing.

The exterior walls are concrete post and beam with rammed earth infill.  Rammed earth was gaining popularity in Sonoma County at the time this project was undertaken.  It makes beautiful thick walls, good thermal mass and fireproof.  I was not sold on the technique at the time and, although pleased with the results, I don’t recommend the technique unless the client really wants it for some reason.  Rammed earth is labor intensive. It’s strong in compression but not in tension so it’s not that great in earthquake country.

Unfortunately, as far as I know, only the west wing was completed.  The pesticides that are used in the surrounding vineyards made some of the residents sick and it was decided to move the retreat center closer to the coast.  I don’t know how the new owners of the property  decided to finish the building.  But it does look nice on paper, anyway.

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