SanctumBy Vishaal RavikumarFrom it’s early origin the sanctum is defined as an area of deep meditation. Often filled with prescriptive elements like formal typology, location of sculptural elements, to ornamental details Sambit Dutta 2010. Most santums required to have rituals happen within them in order to cultivate a space, that allows the users to be able to enter a focused and meditative space. Hindu temples embodied a progressive elaboration of a simple formal schema based on a cuboidal sanctum and a solid form of distinctive curvature. Due to this form of architecture, sounds like the drone i.e., two frequencies played at once to create a third frequency, which was used in temples and designed to bounce of all sides, giving a surreal vibrative experience that was intended to overwhelm the user Sambit Dutta 2010. Mary Carruthers observes that the organising of structures and architecture is a way of guiding a person to its various goals. She calls this phenomena ductus, which is the way a composition guides a person Carruthers, 1998: 77-80.”The truth is often hidden below the surface. One has to go deep below the skin to find it.” Carl von RokitanskyMy work for the thesis, the sanctum that I would build, would be this space that generated similar responses to that of the sanctums of the past and through iterations and further research be able to recreate an experience that does justice to the category that I’ve placed it in.ThesisI’m experimenting with Light, Colour, Sound and the space that holds them together as a means to help expand and enhance the meditative process to further explore one’s true self. The most important questions that I had to ask before building on this subject was,How can light and colour be used as a catalyst that would evoke this meditative and heightened sense of focus in a human being?We as humans mimic, emulate and seek clues from our surroundings. We accumulate stuff, surrounding us with artifacts that enhance, transform and inhibit our habits. To allow space for alternative selves, we change our clothing, accessorize, acquire furniture and rearrange it; we change our rooms, residences, cities, cultures, identities… A certain feedback loop is created between us and the environment that surrounds us. We manifest ourselves and our ethos becomes our surroundings, which further navigates us into this personal exploration. As a species we identify ourselves to certain patterns and colors. A certain combination of color can always trigger a certain emotion, and we use these colors to do exactly that. Living in our constructed environment, we have managed to build the world around us in this similar way. By this attempt to build our perfect world, our identities have become more commercial and we go by the words of the authorities to tell us who we are. Our identity is a malleable. The Early renaissance poet, Petrach writes: “I much prefer that my style be my own, uncultivated and rude, but made to fit, as a garment, to the measure of my mind, rather than to someone else’s, which may be more elegant, ambitious, and adorned, but deriving from a greater genius, one that continually slips off, unfitted to the humble proportions of my intellect” 2005: 3.213.The very idea of having a synthetic thought driven by commercialism and governed by figures, whom we never get to see, yet overlook and tell us what’s good and what isn’t; planted the seed to my thesis.Our days are complex, we have created this routine which subconsciously guides us through our day to day lives. Most days we are on autopilot, our senses and limbs constantly react to the world around us, making turns and muting out noises that aren’t required. Each day a grind, similar to the day before us. Some might call us machines; performing a complex algorithm. We have built our wall around eden and secluded ourselves from it. We dream of connecting to the universe only to hold on to all that we possess in our existence. Having this very realisation drove me to first identify my sacred space. A space that would allow me to be my true self, protected by nothing and allowed to explore that vastness of the brain.Ficino recommends that his readers set up, deep inside their houses, a little room decorated with figures and colors that evoke the generative and protective influences of the heavens Kirkbride, 2008: Chapter 5. In such light cosmetic treatments of bodies and buildings take on a different character. The shower seemed like the most ideal place to experiment. The bathroom as a space tends to evoke a certain character in a person. Whilst in this space you are naked, vulnerable and also revert back to your true primal self. Alice Flaherty, an American neurologist says that our brains are more focussed in the shower because our body releases more dopamine than usual while under the cascading water. Still, that’s not all there is to it. Dopamine alone, which gets triggered in hundreds of events, where we aren’t truly focussed, can’t be the only reason. Another crucial factor is a distraction, says Harvard researcher Carson: “In other words, a distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution.” Especially if you have had a long and hard all day where your mind has been challenged at every turn, jumping into the shower can turn into what scientist call the “incubation period” for your brain. The subconscious mind has been working extremely hard to solve the problems you face and now that you let your mind wander, it can surface and plant those ideas into your conscious mind Carson, 2012.James Turrell used his lighting skills to illuminate the memorial chapel in the Dorotheenstadt Cemetery. Turrell customized the interior architecture of the chapel to optimize the light program to result in a one-hour light show designed to coincide with the sunset. When the viewers enter the chapel, the area glows blue. As the service starts, the altar starts to change color every few minutes. As the sun starts to set, the lighting creates an optical illusion, making the sunset’s light, coming in through the opaque windows, appear amber when the chapel is lit in blue, and green when it glows magenta. Turrell uses the history of the chapel and also plays with the meditative qualities of the church, while fusing these spatial responses with mesmerising lightworks, which allow the viewers to enter a certain focussed state.Another artist who creates similar environments is the Icelandic-Danish artist – Olafur Eliasson. In his piece ‘The Weather Project’, Eliasson views the weather – wind, rain, sun – as some of the few fundamental encounters we have with nature that can still be experienced in the cities we live in. He is interested in how the weather shapes a city and, in turn, how the city itself becomes a filter through which to experience the weather. His installation draws attention to the way we perceive the world around us, and how just like the weather our perception constantly changes.PrototypingMy prototyping process was initiated with me first trying to figure out what my mode of communication was to be. The initial rounds of prototypes worked around exploring the idea of the abstract, and how the abstract allows for a multitude of explanations. The idea that an artefact can not be deprived of meaning. Each person can interpret it in multiple ways, and the reasoning behind this is that, with the idea of abstract shapes and colors, it calls onto our abstract emotions i.e., feelings and moments we’ve experienced through the course of our lives and using the idea of the abstract to call onto those emotions. The main issue with this prototype was that, just like the medium, it became too abstract and not much research to back most of my statements.At this stage of my thesis, I started ideating on areas in which a person enters a focussed train of thought. Neuroscientist Adam Aron from the University of California San Diego and postdoctoral scholar Jan Wessel found that the subthalamic nucleus (STN)–the brain system that is involved in interrupting or stopping movement in our bodies–also interrupts cognition. In previous research, Aron identified that the STN is engaged when you make an abrupt stop in action due to an unexpected event. From their research they also identified that, by placing a person in or around something with constant motion, they can induce a state of focussed thought. For example: Jogging in the park, sitting in the back of a car and watching the world spin in motion. My sanctum now needed something to be in constant motion which would prescribe a state of focussed consciousness.The prototype that followed was me trying to establish a space, in which I first get people to be comfortable. Get them seated, give them coffee or tea, and let them stare into this pond which has a projector above it, playing visuals that move either towards or away from the centre. At this point, what I had hoped was for the user to sit there, comfortable and slowly engulfed into a constructive place in their mind. This idea was inspired by the research based on how people relax themselves around a fire. Watching a fire lowers blood pressure, according to new University of Alabama research. Our enjoyment of gazing at fire may be rooted in evolution, as the act of gathering around a fire dates back to prehistoric times. The researchers hypothesized that when we’re sitting fireside, all of our senses become absorbed in the experience. Having a calming focus of attention could help to reduce anxiety. From here, I knew that I had to research a little bit more on my subject, and that maybe this space can help and alter people thought and behavior.My inquiry in this subject raised a broader question that merits further exploration and dialogue. Considering the philosophical concepts that I was trying to work with, it felt like I was grappling with a method for encoding a notion of infinity through my work. I had to find out how this cella may represent a finite encoding of the infinite. In Marsilio Ficino’s The Book of Life, he compares the celestial bodies to “eyes”, that transmit the quintessence of the worldly soul to earth by rays of light. These rays were believed to influence a person’s spirit through the eye: “the effects of the heavens work especially well through a straightness of the rays and the angles.” This idea of something falling from the worlds that exist above and how little we knew of it connected back to my thought of infinity. At this point in my exploration to find the ideal execution of my thesis, I stumbled upon the humanist training in rhetoric, and specifically the practices of the progymnasmata and ekphrasis, the patrons and their contemporaries were adept at deciphering narratives from the visual and verbal ornament, while using the text and imagery as conduits (ductus) to navigate within and between the rooms, mentally. Kirkbride, 2014. “The rhetorical concept of ductus,” as Mary Carruthers observes, “emphasizes wayfinding by organizing the structure of any composition as a journey.” It seemed to me that though all of this research wouldn’t necessarily have the most valuable connection to my thesis, it seemed like I was absorbing parts of all this data. The designer, like the detective and historian, conducts investigations by intuition and imagination, informed by methods that rub facts and artifacts across the grain to reveal their hidden potential. Now, I needed to create something which has earthly elements, that connected to the world above, which to me was a metaphor of all that exists beyond our knowledge, the vast and infinite world, and that sometimes we need to look up and let ourselves drown into that very vastness, because to me it is one and the same, we are part of the infinite world and its majestic spread.Understanding the space.Through educational and ethical metaphos, architecture provided models for composing one’s thoughts and oneself by a process of self edification that was not purely intellectual but an emotional, whole-body experience. As the cathedrals provided a medieval mind with an “engine for prayer,” facilitating ritual and meditations Carruthers 1998: 263 I demanded my work to pronounce this very experience. The multisensory character was pivotal to the experience of my work.