Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Universal Sanctum: For Anyone from any Religion seeking Spiritual Realisation through Interior Architecture

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Version 2 2023-09-26, 23:59
Version 1 2021-12-08, 13:45
posted on 2021-12-08, 13:45 authored by Nanji, Shamal

In the realm of religion, when rituals and prayers become a routine or a default reaction, often prescribed by elders, they lose value and meaning. In the modern era, we have distanced ourselves from the past ideals of religion. Nevertheless, we continue to seek meaning in life beyond material objects. The connection to the inner-self establishes this meaning and purpose. From this understanding, I realised that all religions, despite their subtle differences lead to spirituality and enlightenment. The idea that architecture can provide a universal middle ground between people and which they truly seek, is the context from which my thesis proposal derives from.  My thesis question:  How can the design of a Universal space of spiritual devotion be realised through exploration and manipulation of spatial qualities within sacred architecture, in a contemporary inner-city context?  Thus, this thesis will look into the architectural genre of Sacred Space in a contemporary setting. The objective will be to investigate the significance of sacred architecture and the common qualities between the various religions and their respective places of worship. The focus will be to propose an interior space which can be deemed sacred by any one from any religion seeking spiritual upliftment.  In doing so, the space will intend to unify people from different religious and cultural backgrounds, and lead them towards the common goal of connecting with the inner self.  The key theory investigated in this research looks at the case of religion for today’s society, interpretation of spirituality in the east and the west, defining sacred architecture and all that it entails, and the need for this typology in the contemporary world.  The contextual basis of this thesis will focus on New Zealand and the predominantly contemporary and diverse culture of the country. The rise in various ethnicities and technological advances means that the presence of a universal space of spiritual reflection and gathering is necessary now more than ever. In my observation, there is a noticeable lack of contemporary sacred architecture, in New Zealand. Perhaps this is the result of our predominantly Secular society. My proposal will aspire to see through this absence and attend to the need of spatial experience to mediate between people and which they spiritually seek.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Interior Architecture

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Interior Architecture

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

University Library

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Abreu e Lima, Daniele