Stanford University’s newly opened Windhover Contemplative Center is a spiritual and meditative refuge intended to allow visitors to escape from the daily intensity of campus life. The Center, designed by Aidlin Darling Design, a San Francisco architectural firm, features paintings by Nathan Oliveira, an outdoor reflecting pool, a granite labyrinth and a Japanese-style garden. The entryway is intentionally drawn-out, requiring navigation through tree and bamboo groves to reach the entrance, with the intent of shedding the stresses of the day prior to entering. The building’s structure will block cellular and internet signals, and visitors are expected to remove their shoes when coming inside. Except for the public docent tours described below, a Stanford ID card is required to enter.
Nathan Oliveira, who taught at Stanford for three decades, was an internationally acclaimed artist. He retired from teaching in 1995 and died in late 2010 at 81. SFMOMA released a video in 1999 with Nathan talking about the genesis of the Windhover project, which was named for a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Oliviera began the project in the 1970s, inspired by kestrels swooping above the Stanford foothills. He returned again and again to the paintings during a lifetime of art, ultimately creating monumental oil paintings of wings and curves that measure up to 17 feet across. Oliveira said he envisioned a place for these paintings where people could “sit, meditate and reflect on themselves.” He said he hoped people would be able to sit and watch the paintings change as the light changed and “distract themselves from whatever is bothering them.”
Docent-led tours of the Windhover Contemplative Center are open to the general public on Tuesdays. The tours include information about the conceptual ideas behind the physical structure and an in-depth look at the Windhover paintings by Nathan Oliveira featured in the building. Tours are ongoing every week from October 14, 2014 through June 20, 2017, 10:00 am – 10:45 am. Admission is free. Reservations not required; 15-person maximum.