The Light Box at Prana del Mar

For a complete description of the evolution of The Light Box, check out the chapter “Putting it all Together: The Light Box at Prana del Mar” in 3 Lights designer, Austin Hill Shaw’s book, The Shoreline of Wonder: On Being Creative.

Intentions: Design a building to house a second practice studio and two spa treatment rooms in the sole remaining place on the retreat center, a small piece of land north of the parking lot.

Functional Results: Since the site was adjacent to 1) a parking lot to the south 2) an arroyo prone to seasonal flooding to the north, the main functional goals were to create a noise and dust buffer between people in the building and the activities going on outside.  Furthermore, the building is both slightly elevated and stepped, both protecting the inside from the seasonal floods and minimizing the excess use of material to create and elevated ceiling height in the studio within.  low windows on one side of the practice room paired with matching skylight on the opposite side allow for stacked ventilation, keeping the inside cool during the heat of the day.

Aesthetic Results: Because of the bulk of the structures on the property already had big views to the ocean and the mountains, we decided to build a more introverted structure to facilitate more contemplative practices.  In order to continue the sense of continuity and connection to the existing building, we continued to use both the golden rectangle as our guiding proportioning system and the same material palet, CMU’s (concrete masonary units) covered with white, highly textured stucco, a surface that serves as great backdrop for the play of shadows throughout the day.   The practice space is known as Heaven and Earth for its strangely low windows on one side and the matching skylight on the others.   The low window, however, make perfect sense when a person finds himself sitting in meditation at which point a secret garden is revealed.  A hidden skylight behind the shrine allows natural light to spill over a curved wall behind. Finally, the vanishing point of the conch shell like spiral the the golden rectangle is known for, a vanishing point that was know as “The Eye of God” in the middle ages, is marked out by a square skylight at an angle.  Since the retreat center is right along the Tropic of Cancer, at noon around Summer Solstice, a beam of light illuminates the room for a few moments, marking the passage of time.

 

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