Building the future of Gaia House
Since we moved to our beautiful, peaceful site in West Ogwell in 1996, there have been no major structural improvements made to the building. In fact, the house remains pretty much the same as it did 50 years ago, with the last major upgrade in 1967 when the Garden Wing was built.
Yet, the demand for what Gaia House offers has increased significantly over the last 20 years and our facilities are stretched to the limit.
To address the challenges that we are experiencing, we had planned to deliver a significant development project that would enable our site to catch up with the vast numbers of people now visiting Gaia House each year and help us to increase accessibility.
The aim of these plans was to improve facilities for group retreatants by increasing the number of single rooms we can offer and increasing the number of toilets and showers available. In addition to improve our coordinator accommodation, create a self-contained resident teacher living area and minimise disruption to the retreat space by moving our offices outside the main house.
The journey continues
Earlier this year Gaia House was presented with the rare opportunity to purchase a neighbouring property known as Oak House.
It was quickly recognised that Oak House met most of the objectives that had motivated our original renovation plans while significantly reducing operational disruption and limitations. Having consulted with our constituent groups, the Gaia House Trust decided to pursue the sale.
Having had our offer accepted towards the end of 2018, the purchase was nearing completion after months of work behind the scenes, when suddenly, and much to our disappointment, the sellers unexpectedly withdrew from the agreement in May 2019, putting an end to what had seemed like a very good opportunity for Gaia House.
After a period of gathering our thoughts, a steering group of representatives from the Teacher Council, the Board of Trustees and senior operational staff met to discuss options and priorities.
We have decided to proceed with our original plans to develop our main site, as the need to increase the number of single rooms and bathrooms we can offer to retreatants continues, and many have given very generously to help us realise our aims.
Thanks to the open-hearted and generous support of our Building Appeal, we have sufficient funds to proceed with Phase 1 – the garage block re-build. This will involve taking down the crumbling garages at the back of the Hermitage Wing and re-developing them into a new two-storey wing, which will enable us to double the number of single rooms we can offer to group retreatants, as well as provide badly-needed extra bathrooms.
Phase 2, for which we will be continuing to raise funds, will be the Garden Wing expansion. This will see the development of the ground floor of the Garden Wing to provide an accessible bedroom and bathroom suite, as well as more showers and toilets close to the Meditation Hall. The final component planned is a beautiful covered walking meditation area running alongside the Meditation Hall.
We are excited to be commencing Phase 1 this summer (2019), with the dismantling of the existing garages. The aim is to put in footings for a timber frame structure in January next year and develop the rest of the building throughout 2020.
Our retreat programme will continue as normal and various plans are in discussion for how best to keep noise and disruption to an absolute minimum during this time.
We are incredibly grateful for the support of our sangha during this period of transition and growth. The continued expressions of love and generosity we receive will help Gaia House to blossom into this next incarnation for the benefit of all who come here.
Thank you for your support!
Present and future generations will benefit from your generosity.
“I have been involved with Gaia House almost since its inception, and I am heartened again and again that it continues to be a refuge for people in need of kindness, understanding, nature and quiet. This building project will be an opportunity to improve the facilities so that all of us, teachers, staff and students alike, can benefit.”
“Gaia House is where I healed from years of pain, learnt about love and became the whole human being I was always meant to be.
Discovering Gaia House saved my life. I hope it will be there for centuries to come, making the teachings of wisdom and kindness available to all who seek them.”