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Competition: Stone Barn Meditation Camp, Latvia

An open international design contest has been launched to convert a disused barn into a meditation retreat in Vidzeme, eastern Latvia (Deadline: 12 April)

The anonymous competition, organised by Bee Breeders, seeks ‘eco-friendly and cost-effective’ proposals for a new guest house for wellness enthusiasts inside an abandoned and partially demolished former sawmill straddling a small river.

The project, for property developer SRED, will deliver temporary accommodation for up to 20 guests, permanent accommodation for the retreat’s host family, and an ‘inventive and eco-friendly’ space for meditation and yoga practice.

Vidzeme, eastern Latvia

Vidzeme, eastern Latvia

Competition site: Stone Barn Meditation Camp

According to the brief, the competition ‘encourages participants to create eco-friendly designs for a complex in the heart of Latvia, one of Europe’s greenest countries.

‘Working in collaboration with SRED property developers, the Stone Barn Meditation Camp will be built on the site of a repurposed stone barn. Looking to serve as an example for green building practice, participants are tasked with focusing on eco-friendly and cost-effective designs to create an exciting and enticing wellness complex that will further encourage ecotourism in the region.’

With around 54 per cent of its land covered in forest, Latvia is home to a diverse eco system, which includes rare black storks, otters, beaver, lynx and wolves; as well as large numbers of deer, wild boar, elk and red fox. Protected wildlife zones account for approximately a fifth of the country.

Eco-tourism is a going trend in the region, and late last year Bee Breeders launched a separate competition for a guesthouse and spa offering blue-clay treatments in rural western Latvia. The winners of the Blue Clay Spa contest – which have yet to be announced – will be considered for construction by SRED Global, which is planning to start building the project in 2017-2018.

Vidzeme, eastern Latvia

Vidzeme, eastern Latvia

Competition site: Stone Barn Meditation Camp

The latest contest in rural Vidzeme focuses on a disused stone barn constructed in 1875 and used as a sawmill until the late 1990s, after which it was emptied and partially demolished. Proposals should restore and extend the existing structure.

Entries should feature an events hall, soundproof meditation room, accommodation for 20 guests, a dining room, kitchen, bathrooms and storage facilities. A separate area for the host family featuring two bedrooms, a library, kitchen and bathroom will also be required alongside external landscaping including a terrace, sauna, vegetable garden, play area and farm.

Submissions must include four A2-sized digital presentation boards featuring sketches, renders, plans, sections, elevations and diagrams with all descriptions in English.

The winning team will receive a $3,000 USD top prize and see its design considered for construction of the Stone Barn Meditation Camp. There will also be a second prize of $1,500, third prize of $500, a student prize and green prize of $500 each and six honourable mentions.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is 11.59pm GMT on 3 May


Early registration from 26 January to 22 February: $90 for professionals, $70 for students
Regular registration from 23 February to 15 March: $120 for professionals, $100 for students
Late registration from 16 March to 12 April: $140 for professionals, $120 for students

Contact details


View the competition website for more information

Cat Hill Barn case study: Q&A with Neil Dawson

The director of Snook Architects discusses lessons learned converting a disused barn in South Yorkshire into a new home

How did your Cat Hill Barn project restore and convert an abandoned stone barn?

Cat Hill Barn was the refurbishment of an abandoned barn in South Yorkshire. When I first saw the building, its roof was in mid collapse and forcing the perimeter walls out. Taking the roof off allowed the insertion of new internal steel frame which both stabilised the walls and provided a secure platform on which to construct a new roof structure.

South Yorkshire, England

South Yorkshire, England

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects

Which architectural, material and other methods did you harness to ensure the project’s success?

The main architectural device was a volumetric one, leaving sections of the barn intact, celebrating the size and scale of the space. This allowed areas where there were new insertions to be that bit tighter; if anything the full drama and scale of the spaces is further enhanced by approaching them through relatively low ceiling spaces. There is a limited utilitarian palette of materials used in the project, which further celebrates the building’s industrial past. These include polished grey concrete, natural Yorkshire stone and oak for the timber elements.

What advice would you have to participants on converting a disused stone barn in Latvia into a meditation retreat?

Keep it simple. It is arguably a healthy thing for any accomplished piece of architecture to quietly retreat into the background; this is especially so in somewhere as calming as a meditation retreat.

South Yorkshire, England

South Yorkshire, England

Cat Hill Barn by Snook Architects