The influence of the mediating qualities of sacred space, symbols and rituals on the built environment : a proposed inter-religious retreat and education centre for Durban.
The following dissertation deals with the qualities of sacred space that influence the architecture for religious building and how these qualities can be used in the creation of an inter-religious facility. The background idea for such a facility is that it will promote dialogue and understanding between religious groups that could lead to greater tolerance, respect and in the end peace between people of different faiths. The project deals specifically with four main stream religions, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam. It will look briefly at the ideas and concepts of other religions but as there are thousands of religions and denominations within each, these will not be dealt with in any depth, and more careful attention will be given to the limited four. In order to discover the essence which makes up sacred architecture, secondary literature will be looked at based on key questions and assumptions. From there, various primary sources are looked at. A questionnaire is conducted to determine how the general public and faithful feel towards sacred space. A case study based on specific criteria is conducted of four religious buildings in and around Durban. At each building, the religious leader is interviewed to gain a better understanding of the details of each faith. The results from the case studies and interviews are tabled in order to make a comparative analysis. The data collected shows some interesting trends in the design of sacred space as well as the opinions of the people who use the religious buildings. An interesting feature of the results is that there are more similarities in terms of the architectural treatment of each religion than there are differences. In terms of the relevancy of an inter-religious facility, the findings show that in general people are interested in such an idea. It was also found that an existing interfaith organization exists in KwaZulu-Natal. The idea of using an inter-faith setup to promote dialogue and understanding is not new the idea. The concept that such a facility could facilitate development of tolerance through understanding is supported by the views of the people who did the questionnaire. In conclusion, it was found that the qualities of sacred space are two-tiered and that to combine them it will be necessary to separate those qualities that are distinct to a particular religion from those that are not. In this way a workable model for an inter-religious or multi-faith facility can be achieved.