August 14, 2012

Photo Essay: (Frank) Lloyd Wright's Joshua Tree Retreat

For some of us, the desert is a magical place.

But to what can we credit the magic? Is it cultural? Climatic? Topographical? Geographical? Geophysical? Metaphysical?


How have people like the Native Americans chosen their sacred lands? And what classifies 20th century eccentrics like George Van Tassel (of The Integratron fame) - who flock to the same places centuries later - as kooks?

Scientists will agree that there are magnetic forces at work at various places around the Joshua Tree area, including where the town of Joshua Tree borders its neighboring town, Yucca Valley. This is where English journalist Edwin John Dingle - known as Ding Le Mei upon returning from Tibet - chose to establish his Institute of Mentalphysics, and commissioned famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his son Lloyd Wright to design and build it atop an aquifer, an underground running river that has created a unique energetic vortex, now home to Joshua Tree Retreat Center. Over 70 years after its original dedication, the center still welcomes retreats and other events, and offers yoga classes, spa treatments, and meditation to help you tap into that special energy.


Wright was known for drawing inspiration for his buildings from the local area, and so his complex of structures - the largest collection of his designs in the country - uniquely reflects the desert in energy, in spirit, and the building materials themselves. The rocks that are inlaid in several of the buildings were sourced from a local quarry.

Frank Lloyd Wright is known for utilizing geometric patterns in his architecture, but for the Institute of Mentalphysics, he worked with Ding Le Mei to incorporate sacred geometry into the designs of the buildings (as did George Van Tassel with the sacred dome of The Integratron).

Meditation Building

Dining Hall


Friendship Hall

Swimming Pool (cold)

Swimming Pool (hot)

Wright (and his son, who actually completed most of the work based on his father's designs) not only created indoor structures for the campus' various mentalphysical activities, but was also mindful of how outdoor space would be utilized.

The retreat center's grounds feature a variety of stone-walled fountains and pools...

...shaded walkways, labyrinths, and meditation gardens...

...and an outdoor amphitheater by the Ridge Cottages.

I spent about six hours at the retreat center yesterday, and overall, I felt holistically happy. But I guess I always do when I swim. But on that day at the Joshua Tree Retreat, I didn't feel my skin burning in the afternoon sun. The 100 degree wind felt cool on my wet back. My arms never tired of pushing my body through the water. And I only left when dark clouds to the north threatened a storm.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House, Interior
Photo Essay: Frank Lloyd Wright Ennis House, Exterior
Streaming (Hollyhock House)

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