“It seems that the problem of not enough space could be solved simply by adding on to the existing buildings.”
The space shortage is not the only issue with the current monastery. Besides being too small, the buildings and rooms themselves are not conducive to daily monastic life and its rhythms and schedule.
Monasteries have traditionally been built on a quadrangle layout: a central courtyard, with all the monastic buildings built around it. On a functional level, this makes for more efficient traffic flow within the monastery; but the layout of the rooms is not simply a matter of utility. One’s surroundings have a deep psychological effect on a person living in them, especially when one is living in the same buildings all day, every day, permanently. It is important that the architecture and layout of rooms reflect the deeper spiritual ideals of the community that dwells in the building.
Compare a bird’s-eye view of our current configuration with a basic floor plan of a traditional monastic quadrangle.
One can see that we already have a basic eastern half of a cloister; couldn’t we simply add on the western half?
What is not apparent from the bird’s-eye view is that the topography is prohibitive of any extensive building either to the east or to the west, without considerable reconfiguration of the land. To the west, a retaining wall [visible in the photograph] blocks the way, on the other side of which is a steep sandstone bluff. To the east, the land immediately slopes downward to become a pond, on the other