mahabis chill // windhover contemplative centre


The Windhover Contemplative Centre  has been designed to be a spiritual refuge on the campus of Stanford University. Mirroring Japanese design features, the building aims to be the ideal place to visit to relax and unwind. 

Named after the ‘Windhover’ series of paintings by Californian artist, Nathan Oliveira that are placed around the building, the structure is multi-functional as both an informal gallery and a refuge from the hectic university life on its doorstep.

Oliveira’s abstract work was inspired by flying kestrels in the Stanford Hills, and the artist always dreamt of the series being housed in a meditative space where people could go to unwind and admire his work. Amongst the pieces on display, one can view his dramatic ‘Big Red’ oil painting that took 25 years to complete, alongside other works including ‘White Wing; and ‘Sun Radiating’.




Designed by Joshua Aidlin and David Darling, founders of the San Francisco architectural firm, Aidlin Darling Design, great detail is paid to the sensory relationship between people and the environment. The duo are renowned for creating spaces that appeal to all of the senses and that blur the boundaries between architecture and art, always taking into account environmental responsibilities.

The structure here is located within a glade of oak trees, a feature that is exaggerated through the effect of creating several floor-to-ceiling glass walls where it is possible to sit and contemplate whilst viewing the trees outside. Natural materials are used throughout, with an abundance of wood used for floors, walls, surfaces and seating, to mirror the trees outside. Tranquil pools of water offer spots to sit for quiet reflection.

Although the interior is designed to be somewhat shaded, with the profusion of dark wood, light shines through from a combination of large window and louvered skylights placed strategically throughout. The balance of light and dark is very important within the building, to create a relaxing atmosphere.



Designed to invoke sensory experiences in its visitors, the entry way into the building leads people through a long garden, where they are able to slowly shed the outside world before entering the sanctuary. The use of natural materials such as the rammed earth walls, wooden surfaces and pools of water speaks to four of our five senses, allowing visitors to hear, touch, smell and see the environment around them.




Ultimately, the Windhover Contemplative Centre is a place for tranquillity and relaxation, ideal for quiet reflection or meditation, but also designed in mind of the art work that it houses. The sanctuary offers the faculty and students of Stanford, along with the general public, a place to visit to invigorate their senses, admire great design and unwind.

We think more places of work and study should take on the idea and integrate contemplative rooms in their environments. 


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