Our Architects: Semple Brown

We are pleased to announce that on Tuesday, December 27, the ZCD’s board of directors approved the selection of Semple Brown Design for the initial discovery phase of our building process.

The selection was made based on the recommendation of the design committee, composed of Karin Ryuku Kempe, Ken Tetsuzan Morgareidge, David Lee, Dennis Sienko and Joel Tagert. From a larger group of candidates suggested by the sangha, the committee selected three architectural firms for further interviews, during which they examined these candidates’ portfolios of previous projects, their working relationships in Denver, knowledge of environmentally sound building practices, ability to work within our budgetary constraints, and many other criteria.

Following the interviews, the committee recommended Semple Brown, a premier architectural firm with offices here in Denver, on Santa Fe Boulevard. Semple Brown is a well-established firm with a multitude of projects under their belts, ranging from private homes to large public works. Their three decades of experience give us tremendous confidence in their ability to aid and guide us throughout the planning and construction of our new temple, avoiding unnecessary and possibly costly pitfalls and seeing the project through to completion. We also appreciated the down-to-earth presences of Sarah Semple Brown, Rusty Brown and Chris Wineman, with whom we met, and their clear and avid enthusiasm for our project.

In the initial discovery phase, Semple Brown will develop a conceptual site plan to be presented to city agencies for approval, and from which a building contractor could generate a preliminary budget. An expanded design committee will work with the company to develop this plan, seeking input from the larger sangha at our sangha circle meetings, held each month this winter.

View of the Columbine property, looking east

Diamond Sangha Teachers’ Circle

Two ZCD teachers, Peggy Metta Sheehan and Karin Ryuku Kempe, recently attended a meeting of the Diamond Sangha Teachers’ Circle at Palolo Zen Center, near Honolulu.

This was the fourth DSTC meeting that I have had the privilege to attend. As you can imagine, it is rare to be able to share the ins and outs of Zen practice, training and teaching with such wise and wonderful friends in the dharma.

Our meeting was rich and full of laughter, insight, warmth and sharing. Our agenda included daily koan study, translation topics starting with the Four Vows (more to come on that), history of the Diamond Sangha with wonderful stories of Robert Aitken, a bit about our strengths and weaknesses, and a few business topics.

We began each morning with zazen together in their beautiful zendo listening to the dancing calls of the thrush and rooster. (Their zendo, by the way, is around 900 square feet, a very nice size and food for thought as we embark on our journey.) We had the opportunity to share meals with sangha members each day. These meetings are not possible without sangha and we are tremendously grateful for their hard work, organization, delicious meals and steady presence.

One evening was a sitting with the whole sangha, followed by a panel of five teachers addressing various topics with questions and answers. Karin Sensei was one of the panelists. The topics were timely and brought forth by the Honolulu Sangha and included suggestions for strengthening lay practice, how is the current mindfulness trend impacting Zen and how we deal with the self that needs bolstering while simultaneously forgetting the self. Apparently there were a few first-time attendees to the Honolulu Diamond Sangha sitting that evening who wondered if this happens every Wednesday night. Good timing on their part, and too bad it doesn’t!

The week ended with a lovely celebration at Clark and Kathy Ratliff’s home that overlooks Honolulu and the ocean. Clark was one of the original group leaders at the Denver Zen Center on Columbine in the 1970s. There was a bit of entertainment at the celebration that included our own Sara Bauer, who has quite a voice, as many of you know. She was joined in harmony and on guitar by Sarah Athanas, who is her good friend and the DSTC assistant. Sara B. sends her good wishes and a big “Aloha!” to the Sangha. We are happy to be home, feeling inspired and enriched. Aloha!

-Peggy Metta Sheehan

Columbine, We Meet Again

We’ve purchased a property!

After a great deal of sangha discussion and consideration, the ZCD’s board of directors has voted to proceed with the purchase of a 12,000-square-foot property at the corner of South Columbine Street and Buchtel Boulevard, not far from the University of Denver campus. (Old-timers may note with some amusement our return to Columbine Street, where the ZCD’s original temple was founded in 1974.)

With this purchase, we may now move forward in planning the construction of a new Zen temple tailored to our needs. It must be said at the outset that we are only in the preliminary phases of this process, and many questions of cost and feasibility remain. It must also be said that there remains a possibility – a small one, perhaps, but a possibility – that we may yet encounter insuperable problems that prevent us from building as planned. However, given the strong Denver real estate market, the board believes the purchase presents limited financial risk to the Center in the event we decide to sell rather than build.

Disclaimer aside, the Columbine property offers many advantages for our sangha. At 12,000 square feet it is fairly sizable, allowing a building footprint of about 4,300 square feet with plenty of space remaining for a garden and up to nine or ten parking spaces off the alley. The building footprint should allow us to fulfill our base requirements on a wheelchair-accessible first level, including a 1,500-square-foot zendo and ancillary spaces such as dokusan rooms, bathrooms, kitchen, foyer and dining room.

Auxiliary spaces needed for sesshin, such as dorms and showers, would require the addition of a second floor. While we will certainly investigate these costs, it is possible we will not be able to afford the additional square footage with the funds on hand, and the board is firmly committed to avoiding taking on any debt. This being the case, the ability to hold overnight retreats may have to wait on a second phase of construction at some point in the future.

Even so, we are confident we can build a beautiful temple exceptionally well suited to our daily practice needs, while continuing to hold sesshin off-site as needed. The Columbine property is very accessible via most modes of transportation, including by car (via I-25), light rail, bus and bicycle. As our current practice spaces (the Rocky Mountain Miracle Center and Mayu Sanctuary) are both located nearby, we enter the purchase with some assurance that most members will not be too inconvenienced by the new location.

Already placed in a quiet neighborhood, the property is bounded on its south side by Prairie Park (pictured above), a narrow stretch of open grassland that rings with cicadas in the summer and fall. Perhaps a year or two from now we may accompany them with the ringing of densho and keisu.