Bristol Buddhist Centre Renovation



GreenTrace Architect have been helping the trustees of the Bristol Buddhist Centre on Gloucester Road with the design of a new entrance sequence and internal layout, in addition to a complete energy retrofit to reduce carbon emissions.


In order to achieve the best possible start for the project, it was important to establish a robust, clear and comprehensive brief. We therefore proposed a briefing workshop to explore the objectives of the project. Design is often a balancing act of opposing objectives, and it is therefore sometimes necessary to establish a hierarchy of design principles to guide decisions. Whilst design criteria are not mutually exclusive (and creativity can play a part in finding solutions that aims to achieve the best of both), a pairwise ranking exercise helps to prioritise which design criteria are most important for the project in a fun and interactive way. For this project, the exercise placed high-level design criteria in the following order of importance:

  • Beauty: The building must be aesthetically pleasing.

  • Sustainability: The fabric and services of the building must reduce carbon emissions. Materials should also be natural and of low embodied carbon as far as possible.

  • Timescales: It is very important to avoid disrupting The Healing Rooms upstairs.

  • Affordability: The project must be affordable, but it is expected that funding can be raised if the vision is attractive and communicated well-enough to members.

From this we established 9 key objectives for the project and the following vision:


“An intriguing presence encouraging visitors to explore and practice the teachings of the Buddha in an inviting, calm, and comfortable environment.”


Once we had established the brief, GreenTrace Architect could begin work on a design solution to address the objectives alongside a feasibility study assessing the financial and planning viability of the project, as well as procurement recommendations. We had a lot of fun coming up with a concept; drawing upon Buddhist ideas of flow and growth, and imagining the centre as a tributary that flows off the larger river of Gloucester Road:


“A tributary off the main river leads through an intriguing vertical forest where dappled light shines from above. Banks and eddies provide rest as the tributary grows and reaches the open, light sea and the skies above”



Bank in the river = external seating. Eddies = rest zones and coat hanging. Rapids = toilets. Estuary = Anteroom. Sea = Shrine Room.

The thorough briefing exercise and concept forming really helped to evolve a design that worked for the trustees. Below are a few images of the proposal. The project, which includes a complete retrofit of external wall insulation, tripple glazed windows and new efficient services (including air source heat pump) is due for planning submission shortly.





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