Location: Near Poitiers, France.
Architect: DP Architects.
Bonnevaux Meditation Retreat is a new home for the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) located in the West-Central region of France. The 65Ha heritage site was chosen for its serenity and seclusion, yet it remains accessible, with an international airport close by and resting one and a half hours by train from Paris. The retreat provides further focused opportunities for the world-community and guests to find their centre, in a place that promotes peace on many levels. The campus of peace will incorporate a variety of accommodation types, including L’Abbaye, the community home; La Grange, a conference facility; L’Écurie, the main guesthouse including the site’s central reception; and Le Village Contemplatif, private cells and gardens for self-contemplation and rest. The works will include the alteration of existing listed buildings and the construction of new structures designed to be sensitive to both local context and global environment. The design and feel of this Retreat are driven by core principles, including Holistic Design, which is an approach that supports and encourages a modification of physical behaviour and mental outlook to improve our sense of “feeling better”. The principles are categorised into four key pillars: Contemplation, Community, Biophilia or Connection with Nature, and Hapticity. The first Holistic Design Pillar: Contemplation takes a front seat, and the Law of White Spaces is employed to inform the master-planning approach. The white spaces were formalised as reliefs in the urban fabric: spaces and places to meet or be alone. The web of silence was interpreted as breaks in the proposed building elevations to preserve a connection with the surrounding natural beauty. Lastly, the site itself is an integral ingredient to the quality of this place. Through embracing nature, promoting serene spaces and respecting the history formed at Bonnevaux, the retreat aims to create a place that forges relationships, establishes awareness of self and others, and nurtures contemplation. The Retreat will occupy the grounds of an ancient abbey founded in 1119. 900 years later, the first phase of this retreat will open: L’Abbaye, a new home for the community.