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Bricks, Mortar and Serenity

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Jeffrey Abramson is part of a family of developers who are taking an unconventional approach to office construction. He took up transcendental meditation more than 30 years ago, and soon became inspired to apply Vedic principles to building design and architecture.Video by Megan Rossman/washingtonpost.com

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By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 2008

From afar, the shiny office building seems like so many others in the Washington area: glistening, glassy, gray. But inside there are signs of something different.

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Sunlight flows through the building, end to end, side to side. Paintings and plants are arrayed throughout. Everyone, no matter where they sit or what job they hold, can see the world outside.

In the center of the ground floor is honeycombed colored glass embedded in tile. A visitor might step over it and not realize its significance. It is the building's nucleus, a feature of Vedic architecture, which encourages light, open space, closeness to nature and a focal point, or nucleus.

This building is the culmination of a dream for Jeffrey Abramson, a principal of the family-owned Tower Companies. The company opened 2000 Tower Oaks Blvd. in Rockville a few months ago and is now on the hunt for appreciative tenants.

Abramson, a developer who for years has pushed the edges of his profession as an early proponent of environmentally friendly designs, also is a longtime practitioner of Transcendental Meditation, a practice that has been linked by some scientists to improved mental health and physical well-being.

"I think of buildings as a way to elevate the human spirit," he said recently as he sat in his sunlight-drenched office on the building's ninth floor, describing how Vedic features can contribute to that goal.

Vedic architecture is based on Sanskrit texts that point to a connection between human well-being and spatial relationships, materials and the orientation of buildings. It was said to have been practiced in India 5,000 years ago in the construction of sacred buildings. The architecture was revived several years ago by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a onetime adviser to the Beatles and a proponent of Transcendental Meditation.

Abramson knows that his views might appear a bit mystical in a hard-charging industry in which economics encourage builders to put up structures quickly and move on to the next project. For now, only three floors of the building are occupied, with the Tower Companies' headquarters on the ninth floor and the Lerners, longtime business partners and major developers who recently brought baseball back to Washington, on seven and eight.

A spokesman for the American Institute of Architects said Vedic architecture is not well known in the United States. Fairfield, Iowa, a center of the Transcendental Meditation movement, has several Vedic buildings, and there are buildings based on Vedic principles in at least 13 other states. A handful of buildings in the Washington area, including Abramson's Potomac home, are built on Vedic principles.

Abramson said Vedic practices make good business sense and will pay off for his company and those who choose to lease in the building.

"We are builders. We are very cautious people who build on firm foundations," he said. "That is what companies want, firm foundations."


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