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New Temple Complex, Liss, Hampshire

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

White Eagle Lodge’s non-denominational temple by James Gorst Architects carries off the Sustainability, Building of the Year and Project Architect of the Year accolades in the 2024 RIBA South Awards

New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner

2024 RIBA South  Award
2024 RIBA South Building of the Year sponsored by EH Smith
2024 RIBA South Sustainability Award sponsored by Autodesk
2024 RIBA South Project architect of the Year Steven Wilkinson

New Temple Complex, Liss, Hampshire
James Gorst Architects for The White Eagle Lodge
Contract value: Confidential 
GIA: 586m2

Perfectionists should start the pilgrimage to rural Hampshire now, as the architecture of this new temple for a non-denominational multi-faith spiritual organisation is so exacting it literally calms the mind – until you start thinking about how it was achieved. Positioned on a spur of hillside, along an ancient ley line, the whitewashed timber-framed building with chalk-coloured brick sits monumentally in the landscape. A series of chakra gardens draws people towards the main temple – although you can enter from any side, a point that emphasises how all four corners of the world are welcome. If you can resist the draw of the domed temple, you can postpone enlightenment through an arrival sequence that leads from secular to ritual spaces.

Starting with a public foyer, the highly rational plan arrangement takes you via a series of cloisters, first on an east-west axis towards the library. To the north, a community hall provides space for gatherings, yoga, and teaching – served by a small kitchen. The library leads through to a meeting room where the White Eagle Lodge’s original circular (read non-hierarchal) table sits, scooped into the wall. Beyond and following the second cloister now on a north-south axis, you pass two mini chapels providing top-lit spaces for reflection.

  • New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
    New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
  • New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
    New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
  • New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
    New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
  • New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
    New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
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On entering the temple you become unsettlingly aware of how unusual it is to see architecture built so perfectly – perhaps this is what happens when you allow the structural grid to be determined by dowsing. Inside, pendentive arches carry a circular larch dome, formed of 48 laminated timber beams, which align to a 12-part timber ring beam, engraved with the zodiac. The veracity of the setting out makes you want to start counting, as if discovering a historic calendar house, where the architecture is built to numerological principles. The room, both square and circular, is of course set out to the cardinal points, with openings on each face with a west altar, and doors allowing views out to the bucolic scenery. Behind the precast arches a curve of dogtooth bricks angle to soften the acoustics, with further vestibules and changing spaces beyond.

Unexpectedly, and reassuringly, this sacred space also begets two plant rooms. Despite building regulations on energy efficiency not applying to faith buildings, New Temple Complex far exceeds requirements, with the client proving equally zealous in its commitment to sustainability. The entirely timber-framed structure has eliminated the need for steel; while below the floor, an underground labyrinth ventilation system provides passive cooling with vents in the dome to expel hot air – an ancient yet effective form of air conditioning. There is also a ground-source heat pump supported by photovoltaic panels, probably benefitting from perfect orientation.

  • New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
    New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
  • New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
    New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
  • New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
    New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
  • New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
    New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
  • New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
    New Temple Complex. Rory Gardiner
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New Temple Complex should be seen and believed. It is clear that that project architect Steven Wilkinson’s presence, keeping faith from concept to completion, has enabled the uncompromising realisation of this ideological building. This rare achievement and godly control of the details is recognised, with the jury awarding him RIBA South Project Architect of the Year.

See the rest of the RIBA South winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Beard Construction
Structural engineer Eckersley O'Callaghan
Environmental/M&E engineer Skelly & Couch
Quantity surveyor/cost consultant/project management Jackson Coles
Landscape architect McWilliam Studio
Acoustic engineer Theatre Projects
Planning consultant Dowsett Mayhew
Timber frame engineer Pacegrade Architectural Facades 
Access consultant Peter Connell Associates 

 

Credit: James Gorst Architects
Credit: James Gorst Architects
Credit: James Gorst Architects
Credit: James Gorst Architects
Credit: James Gorst Architects
Credit: James Gorst Architects

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