Shruti Deore

Shruti Deore

New York, NY, US


METANOIA: Restorative Practices for the Soul

“Man does not arrive immediately at the highest inner elevation and if it were demanded of him at once, he would never arrive there. At first, he needs lower supports and stages of ascent, he asks for some indulgence and permission of mixed half natural motive on which he can stand while he builds up in him the temple of spirit

                                                               - Sri Aurobindo (Indian Spirituality and Life)

Light serves as a symbol of life, happiness, and prosperity, and in the wider sense- a perfect state of being. It creates an environment that is expected to support the imagination, nourish spiritual experiences, and convey the spiritual truth only to satisfy a man’s intellectual curiosity. This thesis, Metanoia is deeply absorbed into the philosophy and symbolism of afterlife. It is about experiencing the journey of one’s mind, heart, self, and way of life, to achieve a complete spiritual conversion.

An architecture replete with light is a powerful catalyst to create an identity and a place for our being to affirm our presence and gain foothold in the universe. This very lack of a sacred presence for those who ascribe themselves to agnosticism in the contemporary urban spiritual landscape today, possess the need for their representation in ways other than non-denominational spaces.

Being a destitute human, compels one to live a life of transience leading to social recluse. In re-thinking urbanization, spirituality must be an integral part of nurturing human connectedness for urban well-being. It highlights the interdependence of urban cultures and sacred infrastructures as they mediate diverse discourses in the city. Metanoia reflects this inter relation as it striates within the city grid forming its own urbanity following the principles of anthroposophic urbanism.

The architecture of this space is solely designed to achieve the abolition of hierarchy within the various socio- economic backgrounds in the society. It is therefore situated in Alphabet City, a neighborhood  that once housed an abundance of transient population, which aims at promoting restitution and advancement both in terms of the environment and people, proving for the soulful spatial experience of Metanoia to give justice- equity and equality.

This thesis is an attempt to re-instill the lost soul of this neighborhood, along with re-instating the same sense of community, with a different outlook, bringing everybody in- irrespective of color and economic background. Taking advantage of the mission driven approach of the existing structures, of opening all doors to the homeless, makes it possible to design a specialized additional program to provide the homeless population with something much more deeper than just a shelter, a design having no boundaries.

It stands in the middle of an urban jungle, void of vegetation, soaking in all the sun as a provocation to shape the neighborhood’s destiny from its shadows. Working with these shadow patterns and their abstracted designs, Metanoia is built as a series of rammed earth sections reflecting light to confront the geometry of fragmentation translated into the geometry of life. The idea is to create moments of spatial sequences of light and dark with their varying reflections to result in an experience of enlightenment. The design is laid out to be unpredictable allowing the light to continually shift and determine the energy of the space with each passing minute. This leaves the users surprised, allowing them to feel the spirit of sacred architecture expressed by the principles of ‘veil, breathe, cultivate and wander’ as a symbolism to the four main elements of life being, earth, water, air and fire.

These rammed earth section walls, interspersed with the grid following the time of day, creates a sequence of buffers through the site for a sudden change in the experience of the environment once the threshold is passed. These are designed to be both contained within the church and extend out onto the site to harvest a complete sensory experience of the user. The numerous entrances to the site ascribe the number of paths one may take to achieve spiritual awakening. The user is welcomed and obstructed with large openings in the walls that reflect the ingenuous architecture in the reflection pools. These hanging or grounded walls embed a principle of sliding elements- that trick the mind to believing them to be moving with the sun, guiding them further into and through the site.

On entering the church, the said population is briefed on the ritualistic process of healing and cleanse. They are then provided with a fresh set of clothes and compelled to clean and wash themselves thereafter. Moving forward, the ritual dictates the phenomenon of a holy dip, to rediscover the mythology behind baptism in all religions across the world. This holy dip is systematically designed to face the southern facade with an open bath concept, to let the light falling on water be the driving force into transcendence. This step in the process of the cleanse, in true sense cultivates the user, progressing into the next phase of life. The informal layout inside the church is carefully modelled to be a path of circulation which leads this transformed soul from the holy dip to other predetermined points, like the sunken courtyards, as a way to celebrate togetherness and confront the comfort while basking in the broad daylight.

Metanoia is set as a ruin in the urban landscape to experience the ritual of light as life, as it becomes the determinator to define the program, subtly blurring the edges between sets of populations. This brings an end to the purposefully designed sacrament within the church, for the user to now step into self exploration whilst navigating through the site. The design signifies rituals to an extent that accommodates sets of experiences, overlooking sets of volumes within or even being immersed to dictate the diverse interpretations and possibilities of space.

Metanoia is thus carefully designed to draw people in and discover themselves as a notion to absolve within society. This restorative expanse provides social justice to emerging social infrastructures by providing a sun filled and airy & inclusive environment to accommodate emotionally wrenching conversations. Every person trapped in this experience of the soul, leaves Metanoia as a transformed individual with respect and dignity for human life.

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Status: School Project
Location: New York, NY, US
My Role: M.Arch Thesis - Individual