Newsletter Subscription
Print Subscription
Change Address
Unveiled> Windhover Contemplative Center
Aidlin Darling Design creates a peaceful respite at Stanford University.
Courtesy Aidlin Darling Design

Windhover Contemplative Center
Architect: Aidlin Darling Design
Client: Stanford University
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Completion: 2014

Construction recently started on a new spiritual retreat at Stanford University. The project, designed by San Francisco firm Aidlin Darling Design, is set amid a private garden and adjacent a natural oak grove.

Principals Joshua Aidlin and David Darling based their design for the 4,000-square-foot center on a series of large-scale paintings known as the Windhover Series by the late artist and Stanford studio arts professor Nathan Oliveira. Prior to his death in 2010, Oliveira had envisioned a space where Stanford students, faculty, and staff could escape the busy campus.


The building is conceived as a long, transparent bar that connects to adjacent gardens, including what are being called “meditative interventions” and a circular “walking meditation” area. Near the mid-point of the linear scheme, the building opens up to form a landscaped courtyard with wooden benches and water features. Water is an important element of the design, providing ambient sound throughout to aid meditation, and culminating in a large reflecting pool at the south end to accent the surrounding oak grove.

The building, designed together with Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, interweaves landscape and water through and around the large rooms that will house Oliveira’s paintings. In these main rooms, louvered skylights will bathe rammed earth walls and wood surfaces in natural light.

Guy Horton