Design Lab
For Interior Planning & Strategy

Shala of Light, Portugal 2020

Idea Competition For a Yoga Retreat, Portugal 2020

We understand the new Shala development as an extension of the existing building complex in all capacities, physical as well as intentional. Honoring the beautifully located site and great vistas into the valley, we chose to embrace the symbiotic relationship with the original retreat. To ensure maximum accessibility and seamless integration there is not only direct visibility between both housing formations, but also a convenient and shortened path between the institutions. In this way guests can fully utilize the shared functions old and new including kitchen access and lodging. The new, larger Shala is one of three buildings arranged on the plateau. Carefully placed to accommodate the visitor’s gaze onto the valley’s beautiful sunsets from the front, and framing a Zen garden along higher terrain in the rear, the landscape is clearly featured. Enveloped in the space our Zen garden sets the tone for the entire retreat as it welcomes guests moving through the environment. Centrally located, the garden platform has two entry points. If a visitor has parked on the hill, they can arrive through the street entrance. Alternatively, there is also a softly curved passageway to the complex’s center, offering an elegant byway across the mountain’s elevation. Thoughtfully constructed in openly assembled brick, the walkway ushers guests coming from the original retreat with a beautiful light and shadow play, presenting nature in a new way. As they exit, guests are guided up a gentle rising stair, and led subtly upward back into the heart of the retreat. At the center of the complex there is a strategically placed Teahouse. Featuring large glazed sliding doors in all four directions, this refreshingly ventilated meeting point is the perfect place for guests to socialize between classes or relax with a well-deserved cup of tea. Easily accessible and welcoming year round, this roofed space offers shelter from the elements in high sun summers as well as any rain or wind the fall may bring. Making their way through the space guests will find The Shala to the left of central Teahouse. Though close in proximity, there is a curated calm here with entrances at the back of the big yoga room in order to avoid unwanted visual distraction when classes are in progress. With function and inspiration in mind, this room is equipped with a high roof to maximize oxygen circulation, and can be opened up along the glazed sliding doors to astonishing views and fresh air. Behind the Shala changing and shower-rooms for both genders are located. Featuring high ceilings, screened entrances and wood finishes, these wet spaces are pleasantly spacious and laterally flooded with natural light to offer an especially recharging experience. Maximizing space, the retreat also offers an additional protected, intimate sunset terrace. This auxiliary space can function dually as a quiet respite from the teahouse, or a waiting area between classes. Smaller events can also be hosted here, as it is fitted out with a bar that can be revealed from a backing millwork wall. Prioritizing a sensitive approach to working the environment of this protected nature park, we foresee little earth and cement work necessary to make these partially cantilevering buildings structurally sound. Rather than onsite fabrication, we intend to utilize locally sourced wood for construction. Details such as brick and Portuguese grey sandstone for a perforated exterior paving of the Zen garden ensure that the entire new retreat can be experienced barefoot, as far as the weather and temperatures permit it.