The renowned architectural firm Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie is transforming three acres in our Walnut Creek, California, neighborhood into an elegant sanctuary set among serene gardens.
The building was designed under the guidance of Dr. Carol Weyland Conner, the murshida, or spiritual director, of Sufism Reoriented. "My primary aim was to create a beautiful building that is an expression of our worship," she explains. "In all spiritual traditions, the design of a sanctuary strives to be an outward expression, in material form, of the still, sacred space at the center of the human heart where man is joined with and can know God. It therefore aspires, first, to be the most beautiful form its creators can envision."
For more than fifty years, members of Sufism Reoriented have dreamed of building a sanctuary that reflects the core principles of our faith. Now, with the aid of one of America's leading architects, that dream is coming true.
In Sufism Reoriented, our very purpose is to provide a spiritual environment that nourishes the irresistible longing of our members to draw ever closer to God as their Beloved, the source of meaning and purpose that inspires their lives. An essential part of that environment is the architectural design of our Sanctuary.
Different streams of faith design their houses of worship in ways that represent the central teaching or message of their faith. As just one example, many Christian churches are cruciform in shape. In the case of Sufism Reoriented, we have designed our new sanctuary to be a physical manifestation of our faith, with each design element having spiritual significance for us.
The New Sanctuary When Completed in 2015
Approaching the sanctuary from local streets reveals a quiet place apart. The white, marble-clad, curvilinear building is surrounded by a serene garden with ornamental trees and shrubs, evergreens, and flowering plants, providing our members and neighbors with a peaceful oasis for quiet and contemplation.
At the front of the building, one sees a wide, open, welcoming walkway, with a peaceful reflecting pool at the center of a small plaza, landscaped with a border of flowering plants and trees.
The single-story surface building is crowned with twelve gently sloping domes surrounding a central dome over the Prayer Hall.
The Prayer Hall is the area where our worship services and spiritual lessons are conducted. The oculus (window) at the top of its dome bathes the area in natural light, creating a tranquil and uplifting space for our gatherings. Encircling the Prayer Hall are a library, a classroom, an office with a guest reception area, storage rooms, and three garden alcoves.
The sanctuary will stand for a very long time, a silent witness to the unified force of love that ever stands behind and at the core of all life. It is the material embodiment of our worship.
Murshida Carol Weyland Conner
The working spaces of the building are located in the below-ground Concourse level and accessed via a circular staircase. Here is where our bookstore, chorus and dance rehearsal studios, audio and video post-production studios, temperature-controlled archive storage rooms, kitchen and common area, and administrative offices are situated. Natural light from skylights complement the aesthetically designed interior lighting.
At the center of this level, stretching from east to west, is the long, open, and wide concourse, enhanced with planters and benches and decorated with murals depicting Meher Baba's Divine Theme of the evolution of consciousness.
"Our sanctuary is not only very beautiful, it is designed in ways that serve the surrounding environment and the community," Murshida Conner explains. "The building will sit lightly on the land, a still, peaceful place apart whose beauty will offer refreshment to everyone who comes to enjoy its gardens or passes by for decades to come."