Page D1.1 . 20 December 2000                     
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    Architecture for the Gods

    by Michael J. Crosbie

    Recent religious architecture in the Americas appears at first to have no unifying theme, except for the fact (of course) that this architecture is for the gods.

    There is certainly no agreement on style: here you will find a bit of everything—Traditional, Historicist, Classical, Modern, and everything that has come after Modern, and is still coming. The gods, it appears, are much more relaxed about the sanctity of a proper style than your average architect is.

    Architectural creativity in religious buildings is quite vibrant. Here we find many examples of new patterns of worship space, experiments in the architecture of the sacred. Unlike any other public building—town hall, factory, corporate office, or school—it is possible that the design of religious architecture offers generous latitude.

    The secular buildings mentioned above must conform to certain standards of function. But the religious building does not. Certainly, there are expectations of what a church, synagogue, or mosque should look like.

    A certain scale—one to make us feel humble in the presence of the Divine—is nearly always present. Materials such as stained glass and stone almost automatically suggest a house of worship.

    An assemblage of materials and space that draws our eyes upward, away from earthly pursuits, is often found.

    Given these "givens," departures from them abound among the projects in these pages. In certain ways, these are the buildings that are most exciting, because they fashion sacred places where we might not expect to find them, with materials and space that challenge old ideas.

    This article is excerpted from "Architecture for the Gods," with permission of the publisher, Watson-Guptill Publications

     

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    ArchWeek Photo

    The Glavin Family Chapel is sited with windows opening to the woods uphill.
    Photo: Steve Rosenthal

    ArchWeek Photo

    Forms derived from sailing vessels influence the hull-like ceiling of the sanctuary.
    Photo: Steve Rosenthal

     

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