New Sacred Space
by Debra Moffitt
Chartres Cathedral in France is the "thought of the middle ages made visible," according to art historian, Emile Male. Through sculpture, stained glass windows, and high arches, it is understood as encapsulating an essence of the Christian spiritual mind of the time. Today, in an increasingly secularized world confronted with diversity, confusion, and a continued decline in church attendance, is there still a need for sacred architecture? If so, what is its contemporary expression?
An increasing number of articles on the nature of sacred spaces in the popular press suggests a growing desire for a deeper connection with humanity — not only in traditional places of worship, but also in homes and offices. Institutions such as museums, hospitals, and prisons have integrated sacred spaces into their architecture and landscaping.
Designers of contemporary places of worship are searching for a new architectural language to respond to this need. One example is the award-winning Setre Chapel by architect Ryuichi Ashizawa, which stands on the edge of a bay in Kobe, Japan. The chapel accepts all faiths and uses no religious iconography; instead, it has a huge window that opens out like a giant computer screen to bring occupants' focus to the water and light beyond it.
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Setre Chapel, in Kobe, Japan, by Ryuichi Ashizawa.
Photo: Kaori Ichikawa
Site context for Setre Chapel.
Image: Ryuichi Ashizawa
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