Spiritual practice and its influence in architecture : the design of a meditation centre for Chatsworth.
The purpose of this dissertation is twofold. Firstly, it investigated the issues inferred by the topic, as how spirituality influences architecture, and secondly, through a critical analysis of a literature review with suitable precedents and case studies, it has set guidelines for the design a meditation centre for spiritual practices in Durban. The importance of such a centre was established by analyzing the architectural qualities that contribute in making a spiritual environment as stated in the hypothesis. Problems regarding the topic were identified as being the lack of architectural character and identity of spirituality. A sense of segregation was felt at various levels in socio-cultural groups through religion and race. Architecture is seen to be a medium to establish a dialogue among these groups by adhering to the need of self-education in terms of spiritual knowledge and practice. The key questions posed were the key elements to the secondary research that included an in-depth literature review based on appropriate architectural theories and concepts leading to a list of architectural design considerations. The theory of phenomenology was addressed by concentrating on the qualities that would evoke and invoke the essence of spirituality in an environment. The study attempts to understand the functional, physical and experiential qualities that contribute in making the spirit of a place. The connection between social and cultural groups was analysed under the theory of critical regionalism that also discussed the presence of nature, apart from culture, in creating an identity. The holistic nature of place and sacred architecture has been an essential area of research in
an aim to discovering the metaphysical, symbolic and tactile qualities that enforce the pragmatic functional requirements of the centre. The need for an understanding of the science of meditation and self-education was beneficial in identifying the spatial, functional and spiritual requirements of the place. Symbolism, geometry, form and order informed the desired qualities that are driven by the cosmological science of Vastu Shastra in fuelling the space with positive energy. The relationship between man and his environment was further studied in terms of natural and sensory experiential qualities that would form a serene atmosphere. Precedent studies were carried out in different continents to extract similar aspects among various spiritual institutions. Primary research consisted of case studies where buildings were analyzed on specific criteria. Interviews were carried out with experienced members of the institutions for a better understanding of the spiritual practices conducted and the environment. The outcomes of these interviews were critically and theoretically analyzed. The data collected through interviews and empirical studies revealed some pragmatic requirements of a spiritual environment. The study concludes that man cannot be separated from his environment - he is part and parcel of it. The study concluded that architecture is instrumental in binding man with nature whilst the understanding of the inner self and his senses enables him to become aware of his surroundings. The spirit within connects him with the spirit of the place established when suitable architectural design principles are applied. A holistic environment is then created and is suitable for spiritual practice. Such a place evokes a sense of spirituality.