Developed on the site of a former garbage dump, the Nan Tien Institute and Cultural Centre is a new educational facility and multicultural art gallery, situated opposite the iconic Nan Tien Temple in Wollongong. Inspired by the Buddhist symbol of the lotus flower, the Woods Bagot design features four distinct “pods” with public spaces in between. Linked by active bridges, the pods create a contemporary learning environment, and the building also contains a library, café, art gallery and other academic facilities. A major feature was the selection of Concept Click battens as timber lining in the interior. Breathing life into the building, the White Oak battens are an important feature and the organic, textural feel of the timber represents a powerful connection to the earth; a fundamental principle of Buddhist belief.
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The overall look is understated; an exercise in simplicity and austerity that imbues the space with quiet dignity and unassuming beauty. The inherent modesty of Buddhism is also reflected in the sustainable use of timber. In consultation with Woodform Architectural, the decision was made to use fewer battens to keep costs down without sacrificing aesthetics. Woodform also supported the project with construction detailing through documentation, project management and assistance with delivery and installation. At the entrance timber battens greet visitors with warmth, and continue as lining to the bridges at the upper levels, inviting further exploration. Intermittent glimpses of wood through cut outs in the walls ignite curiosity, while maintaining a calm and reflective overall space. The project has successfully employed Concept Click timber battens to create areas of quiet contemplation in addition to those which stimulate intellectual vigour, balancing the unique educational and spiritual demands of the building.