Religiousbuildings have played an influential role in history in terms of thedevelopment of architecture.
Civilisations used their built environment as away to communicate meaning through material, form, and design. In ancientMesopotamia the ‘ziggurat’ was a massive step tower believed to be a dwellingspace for the gods. In India, Buddhist monks would use hemispherical structurescalled ‘stupa’ as a place of meditation and preservation of relics. These twomonumental buildings played a crucial role in society as they persevered theimportant religious acts of their civilisation during that time in history.Theziggurat is a stepped temple tower built by Sumerians and Babylonians, amongthe few, across Mesopotamia. The ziggurat developed from earlier raised templesand could only be accessed by a series of ramps, and it was also only afraction of a temple complex. The purpose of these temples was to create aplatform which connected the heavens to earth.
The best example of this ancienttemple is the Ziggurat of Ur in present day Iraq. It is believed that zigguratsheld a shrine at the very top of the steps, but like the Ziggurat of Ur, mostof these temples are left as layered solid mass of mud brick. TheBuddhist stupa is a hemispherical structure used as a place of mediation andsometimes pilgrimage. There are various types of stupas which have beenclassified into five categories; the relic, object, commemorative, symbolic,and votive stupa. In general, the stupa originated as a building which representedthe Buddha’s burial mound and evolved into being a building which commemoratedother sacred saints and concepts. The Great Stupa in Sanchi (India), served asa prototype for the countless stupas which followed and spread all throughoutsouthern Asia. The ‘anda’ is the name given to the hemispherical mound with asolid core that contains relics of the Buddha. Over time, the mound has beengiven a greater symbolic association; the “replica of the infinite dome ofheaven”.
The stupa is now considered to be pointing to the centre of theuniverse; a place for the gods. Thesimilarity between the Mesopotamian ziggurat and the Buddhist stupa is thatthey were both constructed as a place of worship and connection between theheavens and earth. These buildings are shaped, used and accessed differently,but they were at some point in their history, erected to commemorate a divinefigure.
Secondly, they were both constructed out of bricks. The brick plays acrucial role in architecture, and today we can appreciate how numerouscivilisations shared the same technique in their built environment. Theziggurat is a stepped temple formed by layering mud-bricks and using mud toseal them together.
In contrast, the traditional stupas were also made out ofbrick but they are a dome-like platformed structure.