This building is something like a monastery, a co-working studio and a slot canyon. Visiting artists spend a season here living and making art in community. It’s a vertical village organized around an extremely tall and narrow central courtyard (the canyon), with a single circulation path of connected halls, ramps and stairs (the trail) spiraling up to a skyward-pointing library and rooftop gardens (the peak).
It’s an austere experience of ascent in the middle of a hectic city, like a sudden hike in the mountains. Visitors to the building progress from the cool shadows of the courtyard floor to the sun-drenched promontory of the rooftops. Residents of this cloistered environment adjust their daily lives to the constant necessity of ascending and descending as they move from any one space to another in the building.
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When I was an intern based in Engineering Ministries International‘s Kampala, Uganda field office I worked on a series of master plans and concept designs for a variety of local churches, ministries and international faith-based relief organizations throughout East Africa. Our project team of itinerant architects, surveyors, and engineers would arrive together at a new place, soak up the local building traditions and daily rituals of our clients, and then commence designing. This often happened in a makeshift room on an uneven table surface with a generator providing unreliable power for our arsenal of laptops and travel printers.
Our job on site was to stitch together on paper the dreams and (sometimes sprawling) visions of our clients. These were passionate people who dreamed big dreams. In their own ways and through their own earthy callings they longed to see nothing less than the total healing of a broken world. They took the Great Commission seriously. They believed that the meek were blessed and would inherit the earth.
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