On January 7, 2023, the American Buddhist Cultural Society (ABCS) celebrated breaking ground on a six-story temple on San Francisco’s Van Ness Avenue. The new, SOM-designed San Bao Temple will provide classrooms, a community dining hall, indoor and outdoor meditation spaces, a striking shrine room, and private dormitories for visiting monastics and volunteers from around the world.
During the development of the design, Venerable Master Hui Zhi of the ABCS shared that, with this building, he “hopes to teach the Dharma through architecture. We need to go beyond words to achieve transcendence.” SOM’s responded with a design influenced by Buddhist architectural history and practices—and a building that will welcome all walks of life, abilities, and ages.
“Our aspiration is beauty,” said Craig Hartman, SOM Consulting Design Partner, at the groundbreaking ceremony. “A beauty that follows the teaching of Buddha in its underlying modesty, its respect for its neighbors, and its welcome for all. The architecture’s internal spaces will offer a quiet, contemplative respite—a step removed from our phones, screens, and hectic urban environment. These spaces will bring the outside, in, through intimate gardens and landscaped courts. Nature and humanism will be united through the use of modest natural materials, tactility, and the poetics of light.”
An inclusive design process brought together the ABCS Temple and community, city leadership, and individual neighbors and associations, who provided invaluable perspective and guidance. Key stakeholders included the City Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, Van Ness Corridor Neighborhood Association, Discover Polk CBD Association, residents of 1776 Sacramento and 1745 Clay, and St. Luke’s Church.