Living in the Mandala | Natural Home of the Year Winner: Spirituality in Design

Natural, local materials and a design that echoes an ancient meditation tool bring a sense of peace to this deceptively simple home in British Columbia.

Content Tools

Don’t let the apparent simplicity of this house a Natural Home of the Year runner-up fool you. Behind its four-square floor plan and straightforward structure lies a spiritual grounding "I didn’t mean the house to be a mandala,’’ says owner-architect Henry Yorke Mann, "It just became one.’’

Mandalas are two-dimensional figures that people often gaze upon during meditation. The word means "circle" in Sanskrit, but any series of concentric geometric figures can qualify. Tibetan Buddhists study mandalas to contemplate the structure of the universe. Mythologist Joseph Campbell believes they represent the way we build our inner selves. "A mandala,’’ he once said, "is a discipline for pulling all those scattered aspects of your life together, for finding a center and ordering yourself to it.’’

Henry’s 1,150-square-foot house in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia built in 1993 for approximately $103 per square foot is a three-dimensional, inhabitable mandala. Its floor plan demonstrates a series of concentric elements. Anchoring the center is a bristling six-foot-square concrete masonry mass, surrounded by a series of free-standing partitions that serve as both space dividers and storage and layer toward the four-foot square pillars in each corner. Surrounding these is a ring of hip-high concrete masonry piers guardians, Henry calls them which form an enveloping quadrangle. "I needed something to complete the 'magic square,’’’ he explains, referring to the guardians as the elements that bind the others together.

Check out the November/December 2000 issue of Natural Home for more about the power of healing architecture.