• Vol 11, No 1 (2020)
  • Architecture

Maintaining Social Sustainability through the Boundary Formation of Sacred Spaces in Moslem Dwellings

Samsu Hendra Siwi, Yandi Andri Yatmo, Paramita Atmodiwirjo

Corresponding email: yandiay@eng.ui.ac.id

Cite this article as:
Siwi, S.H., Yatmo, Y.A., Atmodiwirjo, P., 2020. Maintaining Social Sustainability through the Boundary Formation of Sacred Spaces in Moslem Dwellings. International Journal of Technology. Volume 11(1), pp. 133-143
Samsu Hendra Siwi - Doctoral Student at Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Indonesia and Lecturer of Tarumanagara University.
Yandi Andri Yatmo - Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Indonesia, Kampus Baru UI, 16424, Depok Indonesia
Paramita Atmodiwirjo -Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Indonesia, Kampus Baru UI, 16424, Depok Indonesia
Email to Corresponding Author


This paper addresses the issue of social sustainability in the daily spatial practices in dwellings. In particular, it discusses the establishment of sacred spaces in the everyday activities of Moslems in their dwellings, as manifested through the boundaries between clean and dirty zones related to religious rituals. The study employed a qualitative approach and the use of a case study as the method. The case study consists of six Moslem dwellings in urban areas, using in-depth interviews and observations to obtain data about the activities and behaviors of the dwellers. The boundaries between clean and dirty zones were found to be established based on the journey of footwear in the house. The formation of these boundaries could be considered a mechanism for maintaining the place’s sustainability—a way to maintain the cultural identity of Moslems in their dwellings. The sustainability of sacred places was established through social agreement on the use of spaces and the boundaries defined for temporary spaces.

Moslem dwelling; Sacred spaces; Social sustainability; Spatial agreement; Temporary


Sustainable development goals are defined by four inseparable sustainability aspects: environmental, economic, legal, and social sustainability (Suwartha et al., 2018). One of the goals of social sustainability is the achievement of well-being and quality of life through connection between the built environment and social experience (Vallance et al., 2011). The social sustainability goal will not succeed without the community, so it is important to understand the role of the community in maintaining sustainability and promoting well-being in the daily living environment.

Social sustainability emphasizes the preservation of social values, cultural traditions, and ways of life (Vallance et al., 2011). Culture interacts with cultural identity to influence both individual and collective values (Gudykunst et al., 1996). Cultural identity is an individual's sense of self that comes from the formal or informal membership of a group "that transmits and instils knowledge, beliefs, values, attitudes, traditions, and ways of life" (Jameson, 2007). It is important to consider cultural identity in order to understand a community’s values (Gudykunst & Nishida, 2000). Cultural identity is important as a frame of reference for how individuals define themselves and how they respond to their social relationships (Gudykunst et al., 1996). Therefore, it is important to maintain cultural identity in order to maintain the social sustainability of a particular community.

This paper addresses the issue of social sustainability as manifested in how societies maintain their cultural identities through daily spatial practices in their dwellings. Culture is built into the structure of space and place (Panjaitan, 2017). The main issue addressed in this study is how to maintain place sustainability in relation to cultural and religious practices. Specifically, the objective of this study is to explore the presence as sacred spaces within Moslem dwellings. The discussion of sacred spaces in dwellings is important because they are the medium that accommodates spiritual needs, which are ultimately related to the well-being of a dwelling’s inhabitants. A sacred spaces accommodates the relationship of a person or community with "the other." The presence of a sacred spaces is an important aspect of maintaining social sustainability in the dwelling since the dwelling needs to be the place inhabitants can instill the values of life. The study of sacred space and religion continues to intersect with everyday habits and behaviors; environmental beliefs, attitudes, and practices; social mobility, hybridity, and identity; relations between private and public space; and geopolitics and territorial imaginations (Della, 2015).

The idea of sacred spaces in general, is related to divinity. In any religion, a sacred spaces in the dwelling is often associated with the existence of a particular kind of object, like an altar or a family temple. As such, a sacred spaces is often a particular place to perform a religious ritual. However, in Islam, prayer can be performed anywhere as long as the particular spatial requirements are met. For Moslems, the practice of compulsory five-times-daily prayer means that many spaces can be considered sacred, as they may conduct their daily activities in different spaces throughout the day. The requirement for sacred spaces in Islam refers to the necessity for prayer activities to be in accordance with Islamic law, namely the requirement for cleanliness (places without najis and hadats) and an exact orientation to Kaaba. This is quite different from the concept proposed by Jackson and Henrie (2009), where the requirements of sacred spaces are to be divided into three levels: mystico-religious (related to beliefs), homeland (ancestral/homeland), and historical ties. Meanwhile, Levi and Kocher (2013) defines sacred spaces as a phenomenon of experience, behavior regulation, and aspects of identity. These broad understandings may explain various dimensions of sacred spaces; however, for the purpose of this study, we will focus on the establishment of sacred spaces as related to the requirement of cleanliness in Islamic law.


The agreement regarding the use of footwear in a dwelling is a way to establish the boundaries between clean and dirty areas, between sacred and non-sacred areas. The formation of these boundaries could be considered a mechanism for maintaining the space’s sustainability—a way to maintain the cultural identity of Moslems in their dwellings. The sustainability of sacred spaces is established through a social agreement on the use of spaces and the boundaries defined for temporary spaces. The boundaries are established through the acts of wearing, changing, and taking off footwear; the assignment of a particular room—the mushola—as a sacred space; and the laying of the sajadah on the floor for prayer. This suggests that the boundaries of a sacred space could be established as permanent as well as transitional and temporary. The agreement of the inhabitants regarding the use of and requirements for a sacred space is a way to maintain the social sustainability of the dwelling. It indicates that sacred spaces exist as a product of a society in relation to activity and time.


This research is supported by the BPPDN scholarship grant from the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education. The authors would like to thank all the informants for their valuable information for this study. 

Supplementary Material
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