The relationship between architecture and the individual involves a process of discovery through themselves. Architecture is for human beings and it has the capabilities to move us and leave us with ever-lasting experiences. There are certain qualities of spaces that open up our subconscious minds and make us aware of ourselves, just like meditation.

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Salk Institute ©Salk.eduWinston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” 

Buddha said, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” 

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©Hitesh Rathi

So, can architecture help us alter our thought process? Can it connect us to ourselves so that we can shape our thoughts? 

Architecture can induce mental states that could help people realize their real selves just like meditation and contemplation, which further helps them understand their purpose in life. For example, there are two different principles involved here – scale and mysteriousness but, both of them have similar effects on our psychology in their ways. Buddha felt that he could feel and observe all the processes of nature and life under the tree – the animals, the people, the sun, the sky, etc. It was indeed the scale that made him subdued concerning the entire world. 

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©Hitesh Rathi

Architecture in general refers to designing a building that is aesthetically beautiful, functionally right, economically feasible, structurally stable, and environmentally sustainable. All this revolves around the needs of human beings. If we go deeper, another degree adds to this merely spatial and geometric phenomenon, which is beyond the visual perception and is perhaps the most crucial of all. It is how the building affects a human being internal.

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©Hitesh Rathi

Life has become so fast nowadays that people do not have time to connect to their inner spirituality and self-introspect about what is right and what is wrong. This is necessary to make a person aware of himself and realize his full potential. As these architectural spaces are all that surrounds us, they must provide us with such pause points in life, where we can connect to ourselves. 

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©Hitesh Rathi

Looking back in history when the population was less and the type of occupations and buildings were limited, the type of structures that we’re able to provide such pause points were the religious buildings. There are significant similarities in the religious buildings of different cultures all across the world. 

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Holiday Villa, Vals ©Urlaubarchitektur.de

The spiritual journey full of traditions and cultures which talk about wisdom and its importance in lifelike Hinduism, Buddhism, and Japanese, incorporated ways to be mindful through practices as well as through their buildings.

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©Hitesh Rathi

There were different ways and principles they used to induce contemplation in the buildings. Thus, it is clear that being mindful was an important aspect of life from the times immemorial. 

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©Hitesh Rathi

But as the population increased, competition for survival increased and the pace of life grew dramatically. People are living in a hurry so they have lost connections with the spiritual and themselves. This has resulted in a decline in wisdom as people have lost connection with their inner spiritual self and they don’t have time to realize what is right and what is not. This is the reason why crime rates, poverty, brutalism, violence, consumerism, greed, and stress levels have increased. 

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St. Xavier’s Primary School ©HCP.co.in

We cannot force people to follow a particular path or ask them to visit religious buildings but we can find ways to make them mindful through the things which influence the people daily. 

What if contemplation is induced through the structures which are an integral part of our daily lives. Being aware of our inner selves can be achieved in two different ways– 

  • Internally-induced states which are voluntary and involves practices like praying, meditation, fasting, charity, etc. These practices are generally provided by religions and cultures. 
  • Externally-induced states are involuntary and can be achieved with much less effort through spatial design and sensitive architectural approaches. 
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Lotus Temple ©pinterest

What is important is the connection to the inner self. Introspection is the next step of connecting which allows further mental growth.

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©Hitesh Rathi

In today’s global scenario of the 21st century with a slant towards a consumerist culture, the spiritual is lost and the material world is taking over, making us sinful and unenlightened resulting in pollution, climate change, global warming, refugees, terrorism, war, violence, greed, stress, brutality, racism, and the list goes on. All this is supported by today’s consumerist society. It is an alarming situation and the world needs to do something about it. It is difficult to force people to indulge in voluntary internally-induced states in the current situation. So, we must choose the second way out that is externally-induced states. And one way of doing that is through architecture – designing spaces to induce spirituality and mindfulness.

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©Architectural Record

 

Author

Trishla Chadha is driven by a persistent desire to learn and to inform. Besides working as a Junior Architect, she is also associated with an International social organization with the aim of empowering women in our society. She is particularly intrigued by the sensitivity of architecture towards nature and people, as well as discovering new aspects that enrich the spatial experience.

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