“I do not believe Architecture should speak too much. It should remain silent and let nature in the guise of sunlight and wind” – Tadao Ando
Every time we walk into space, a piece of it ends up being embedded in our minds as a memory. It holds a certain control over how we feel and react. These tiny fragments are a sign of transcendence from our conscience to how we physically perceive spaces via tactile senses. Architecture and Psychology have always been a very intriguing combination. So many aspects varying from materials, design strategies to human responsiveness, and sensory impact fall under this giant umbrella. For example, someone who has lived in a city surrounded by the fast-paced life and daily hustle bustle can feel surprisingly calm and more aware in a quaint area like a village. The setting around us, both on a macro scale like a city or a micro-scale like our home can affect the way we feel.
The demand for such escapes from the daily rut, like meditation spaces has starkly increased in the past decade. These spaces are designed to speak to their users on a spiritual level. The human body and its functions are taken into consideration while working out the space orientation, circulation pattern, ventilation, and overall utility. The ultimate goal of these spaces is to ensure a seamless togetherness of architecture, the body, and the mind. Several tonal and ambient factors such as acoustics play an important role in secluding the body and the mind from the exteriors and creates a bubble that is ideal to attain spiritual sanctity. Various sound blockers and local materials absorb external disturbances and create isolated spaces with a perfect ambiance. This eases the process of creating alpha and beta mental waves that impact our minds positively during meditation. The Windhover Contemplative Centre at Stanford, USA is a great example of using locally sourced wood and glass to create a quiet space away from the otherwise busy campus. It is a very beautiful way of incorporating nature and retaining the existing vegetation in space.
The threshold or the entrance to a meditation space is a key architectural element that symbolically represents the movement of a user from a busy outside world into a safer and calmer space. The approach is marked by a well landscaped and designed space that can positively impact the user by appearing to be more inviting. One great example of a well-designed approach is the Prayer and Meditation Pavilion at Khartoum, Sudan. Where a large water body lined by trees on its sides paves the way for the user to enter the space. The water body adds a calming static effect and creates a very interesting pause point that marks the transition of exterior and interior spaces
The play of light and shadow creates an innate sense of movement in space. The incorporation of natural light and wind helps the user to feel closer to nature and its elements. The presence of design elements like louvers, skylights, and large openings helps to bring in positivity and enables the user to see things from a different perspective. Several focal points can be created by experimenting with light and shadow at different times of the day in the space that is necessary during meditation. Tadao Ando’s creation, The Church of Light is one such example. The overall minimalistic ally designed space has a very interesting use of light in the form of a cross that is formed by an opening in the wall. That is so impactful and creates a memory in the user’s mind that can be used for meditation purposes even when he/she isn’t physically present in the structure in the future.
Scale and Volume is another important architectural consideration that affects the way we respond to spaces. For example, the feeling of massiveness can be felt in spaces with large double-height ceilings like monuments but on the contrary, one feels safe, secure, and at home in spaces closer to the human scale, like the Gandhi Ashram. Our reaction to scale and volume hugely depends on the way our human body is built. Anything larger than it seems to have a negative impact on how we feel because of the mystery and magnificence. The orientational aspect of the volume we are in is also dependent on the cardinal alignments of the earth. It surprisingly affects the way we react post-meditation and hence, geometries aligning to it are preferred while planning to be at one with how our bodies are designed. The spaces shouldn’t be rigidly designed and should have more organic planning to ease the circulation and transition from one area to another, hence creating a sense of natural flow and movement.
Nature plays a crucial role in connecting the human body and architecture by introducing elements such as the movement of the leaves, the texture of wood, the scent of flowers hence awakening our tactile and sensory responses and hence positively impacting the way we feel. The presence of an intimate atmosphere away from the realities of life is important for spiritual progress and activation of chakras that are said to impact the way our body works. The Ecumenical Chapel in Mexico is a great example of the seamless integration of natural elements into space. Green bushes line the periphery of the structure where the entire circulation is monotonous and is only broken by the presence of a stream in the garden. The structure is like a meditational pod embedded in the ground symbolizing the birth of a new spiritually sound user from mother earth.
Architecture, when paired with the beauty of the human body, holds so many interesting possibilities just waiting to be explored in the future. The power to transform the way we feel, simply by planning smartly and efficiently is really exciting and is truly a blessing. Spiritual happiness is finding more and more importance in today’s day and age due to rising awareness about mental health. Several such architectural interventions can ease the process of transcendence from reality to a calmer space of mind.
“The thing about meditation is: You become more and more you.” – David Lynch