The BTRTM building design was conceptualised and designed by Venerable Shi Fa Zhao, aided by a team of local and overseas consultants. Several draft designs were developed, incorporating the best arts and culture of the great Tang Dynasty of China and the principles of the Buddhist Mandala, as core design philosophy. A great deal of research had been made to ensure accuracy and authenticity.
With the gift of the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic and the success of the 2002 Suntec City exhibition, it was clear that the Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple would be inadequate to exhibit the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic for public veneration. Thus, Venerable Shi Fa Zhao was very determined to secure the vacant Sago Lane site for the new temple and we began to plan in earnest.
Ven Shi Fa Zhao realized that the two earlier proposed Golden Mandala Buddhist Temple in 1996 (Version 1) and Gajah Ratna Buddhist Temple in April 1998 (Version 2) designs were not appropriate for the needs of accommodating the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic at Chinatown’s Sago Lane site.
Hence, he began to research and review the various traditional Chinese temple architectures. He scoured the libraries, book stores and internet for material to emulate and adapt. It was only whilst he was in the Dharma Retreat, away from the mundane daily workload that he found his vision.
In January 2003, due to the urgency to create a suitable temple design, he met and articulated his vision of “a golden temple” to Mr Tan Yen San, a local architect. The main components and facilities were discussed and a rough sketch was made for further development.
In February 2003, the concept design of a modern temple with glass walls (version 3) was presented to Ven Shi Fa Zhao. As this was too contemporary, he wanted to have a more traditional Chinese temple, in keeping to the Chinatown locality
Thus in April, this gave way to a more ‘solid’ building design (Version 4), but still did not look traditional Chinese look.
We found a post graduate student from China who was doing his Master of Architecture Course in National University of Singapore. He then incorporated the various elements selected by Ven Shi Fa Zhao and developed a more Chinese design and presented a three-dimensional drawing (version 5). However, it was not what was envisaged.
So, the search extended to China to look for architects for traditional Chinese temples. In May 2003, the Changsu Architectural Company was approached and agreed to develop the design for BTRTM. A scale model was developed to study the building features. However, the roof styling and external features were more Southern Chinese style architecture (version 6). A more traditional northern look was preferred.
The further search resulted in the Beijing architect firm, Landscape Architecture Corporation of China being appointed to develop the next design. After several meetings, LACC showed a more traditional timbered façade and balanced proportions (version 7). However, the roof design was more of a Ming dynasty design, so they were asked to incorporate Tang dynasty roof features and Tang timber features (version 8).
The next design when shown on a 3-dimensional drawing was not very appealing due to the timber colour of the external façade. This would not make the temple standout in the Chinatown urban landscape. After some further research on Tang dynasty temples in China and Japan, it was decided that we use traditional red lacquer paint for the timber, green for the timber windows and gold to define the edges. This version 9 met with Ven Shi Fa Zhao’s approval and a scale model was developed. Although there were further refinements to the plans, this design was used to commence detailed architectural and construction planning for this traditional looking temple, with modern facilities and construction methods. So, from a vision to final design took some months and several designs before we settled on the final. The result is a testimony to the tremendous effort, cooperation and creativity of Ven Shi Fa Zhao and the hardworking project team, as well as various contractors and suppliers.