Winner of American Architecture Prize 2016, Hans-Petter Bjørnådal constructed a Meditation Garden deep in the Lithuanian forest of Anykščiai.
Human Birdhouse Workshop
Three Architects were invited to present different meditation shelters and build them during the Human Birdhouse Workshop in Lithuania, August 8-15, 2016. The organizers invited Marco Casagrande (FI), Vilen Kunnapu (EST) and Hans-Petter Bjørnådal (NOR). The workshop took place on the property of Vytautas V. Landsbergis, local project mediator and famous Lithuanian children books author, poet and film/theatre director. The idea of the workshop was to present a new genre in architecture – Constructive Shamanism, where architects together with builders and spiritual practitioners would try to reveal human-nature connection in a sacred and respectful way and create meditation shelters and temples in the nature for a meditative experience.
Hans-Petter Bjørnådal presented Gapahuk, a Norwegian archetypical design for meditation shelters. This type of shelters provide protection from the rain and wind, give warmth from a fireplace, and face the landscape to connect with nature. The shelters are used for individualized meditations or simply to take rest while hiking. One feels happy being in nature, breathing clean air and listening to birds. These shelters give an opportunity to get deeper spiritual experience while being in nature, to stop and go inwards in order to relax mind, spirit and body. This helps people to find harmony with others, with the environment, and with oneself.
The location for Meditation Garden was selected to add mystical surrounding. The site was next to the swamp. The swamp has low sounds, invisible creatures, and unknown depth, hidden passages used by Lithuanian witches in the past and by partisans during war. It attracts and frightens at the same time. The swamp is very different when fog is going down, and when sun shines upon it. To have the opportunity to sit and meditate in the shelter and to explore the swamp and the growing forest gives an unforgettable experience by connecting with the most magical landscape. Swamps as landscape are frequently used in Lithuanian fairytales, needless to say this fact added a unique mysterious feature on the whole project.
The project was filled with mythological and folk images. Singing mantras and polyphonic songs around bonfire, participating in spiritual and in tea ceremonies were creating strong bonds between team members. Also, it endowed a meaningful embracement of Lithuanian innate connection with nature and folklore and brought the full load of mystical meaning to the project.
Three shelters were built and other design elements were introduced, such as:
1. An area for the garden was cleaned of stumps, roots and shrubs, and new grass was seeded
2. Pathways were shaped in the naturally round waves around and inside the Meditation Garden
3. Symbolical pathways made of stone were built – to present the idea of a Lithuanian fairy tale about serpents
4. Two fireplaces were added in front of the shelters for individual meditations, together with other fireplaces and sitting areas throughout the site
5. Timberman lights were added during the opening ceremony of the Meditation Garden
6. Two holy stones were added as totems of masculine and feminine origin, one of them symbolizing the head of a serpent, the other was used for sacrificing ceremonies
7. The amphitheatre seating area was created by hammering logs into the ground, which could be used for small performances or poetry evenings in the Meditation Garden.
Location: Anykščiai, Lithuania
Design: Bjørnådal Arkitektsudio
Team: Hans-Petter Bjørnådal, Vytautas V. Landsbergis, Šarūnas Savickas, Dovilas Bukauskas, Goda Verikaitė, Corentin Holvoet, Sophie Hazebrouck, Kristė Krupovisovaitė, Viktorija Minčinskaja, Kwai Pun Jordane, Laisvydas Dudutis, Dainius Meškauskas, Leika Mark Noppenau, Silvija Juškelienė, Thullier Ludovic
Photographs: Lidija Kaleinikovaite – Lina Pilibaviciute