The Dragon Breathes
Update on the Dragon Hall by Konrad Ryushin Marchaj Osho

Interview by Karin Jinfu Connelly, MRO

Featured in Mountain Record 26.1, Fall 2007


 

Image by R.M. Kliment & Frances Halsband Architects

 

Mountain Record: We’ve watched the vision of the Dragon Hall evolve over the past several years, with a particular transformation in 2005 when it shifted to green. Thinking in terms of where religious vow meets environmental responsibility, could you describe what’s at the heart of the Dragon Hall?

Ryushin Osho: When Daido Roshi arrived here, he had a vision of starting a place that was dedicated to teaching the buddhadharma, initially as the Zen Arts Center, then as Zen Mountain Monastery. For the first twenty years, we were discovering how to make use of this remarkable place. As we grew, we restored most of the existing buildings on the property. In 2001, the new Dharma Communications building became the first new structure since the Monastery began.

The need for additional space for retreats and performances, as well as offices and community residential areas, continues to grow. Another building is now needed. The inklings of that idea were already there in 1985, at the first Board of Governors meeting. Over the years there was a progressive evolution of ideas, but the resources were not yet available. In 2004 the Dragon Hall project became the central focus of the next fundraiser. At that point, the idea was to model it after the design of the Dharma Communications building. With initial sketches, we went to the sangha to begin fundraising. That’s where the whole thing came to a grinding halt.

A number of people in the sangha told us that their involvement rested on our rigorously pursuing a green building design—not based solely on our own discernment, but through something that is measured externally and classified as green by LEED—the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System. It’s the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings, with a focus on sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. While we had always paid attention to our impact on the environment, the sangha raised the stakes. So we went back to square one and started researching.

We began to search for architectural firms who understood the spirit of what this was to be—a sustainable building. Actually, words like nourishing and enriching are better descriptions of what we’re actually trying to do. And this is a big deal—to create a new structure is to disturb the balance between the environment and us.