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Dechen Shying

Dechen Shying is a spiritual care centre to enable people who are elderly, have disabilities, are sick or facing death to attend seminars, attend personal retreat and/or be cared for as they pass from this life, within the setting of a mature spiritual community on a majestic site overlooking the sea. The centre consists of suites for guests in care, accommodation for their visitors, support/care facilities, family areas, service spaces and staff accommodation, a conservatory, and a chapel for spiritual practise, meditation and prayer.

Though sited within a precious landscape, on steep, cliff like hills overlooking the Atlantic,  whose south facing aspect exposed it to the best and worst of environmental conditions, the clients sought a calming and healthful building. It was also to be delightful and above all have a non-institutional ambience while complying (invisibly) with all present and future standards for nursing homes, safety etc. It demanded the creation of spaces that were to feel domestic, homely, safe and intimate even, while achieving fire safety and providing comfort in the face of exposure to the worst of wind, rain and solar gain, as well as being totally accessible.

This last requirement (to be totally accessible -except for staff rooms) was the primary generator of plan, leading to a layered, single levelled and thus deep, layout. Overcoming the limitations it created, in terms of daylight penetration and natural ventilation, led to the solution for design in section. Tibetan geomancy determined that the entry had to be from due north. 

Rooted in the philosophy of the standard Irish response to tragedy - the cup of tea, the building layout begins with a family kitchen at the entrance, set around a large kitchen table that presides over the central ‘promenade’ space. The rooms for guests in care line the southern edge of the building, terminated in the prominent drum form of the Shrine room that hinges the plan around the steep slope. The guest rooms themselves enjoy their own conservatory, a space from which to contemplate the horizon and the sky.

The external form of the sustainable building is derived from the internal decisions; roofs step and fold to allow light in and the form responds to the original philosophy- to be domestic in ambience with the roof swooping down to single storey level to create an intimate scale at the entrance.

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Project Details

Contract Value:
€ 3.2million
Completion:
2008
Location:
Co. Cork
Awards:
Green Awards 2010; Green Building Award Winner