February 10, 2010

Protestant Architecture: Case Studies

This week I have contacted a few architecture firms that have completed some successful, contemporary examples of Protestant Architecture. I have requested information on their projects and firm design philosophy. When I speak with the architects of the design teams, I hope to hear what they think about the value of the 'human experience' in sacred spaces. Some of the firms and projects are listed below...but first:

For most of my architecture classmates and peers, the term "phenomenology" is a familiar one. (For the rest of you, the word may just be hard to pronounce.) The concept was pioneered by the philosopher Martin Heidegger and architectural theorist Christian Norberg-Schulz (along with many others). In architecture, it focuses on the very thing that I am interested in regarding sacred spaces: the human experience. The way that a space or environment appeals to the senses (there are more than five, for example: thermoception)...or the way that the materials used within a space affect the way the surfaces feel, smell, or even echo. Regardless of the intent, all of the decisions that go into the making of a building will affect the senses by the sheer nature of the way human beings "tick", why not make these decisions intentionally? Human beings cannot simply "turn-off" their senses when they enter a space that has wood veneers just because the design budget wouldn't allow for it. It doesn't matter how realistic the "grain" looks, it simply does not carry the same smell, warmth, feel, or sound as the real thing. If you still don't get it, just do this: remember the last time you visited someone in the hospital? Remember the smell? the hard, cold floor? the (sometimes horrifying) sounds coming from the other rooms? the long, monotonous hallways with smudges on the walls and skids on the floors? Remember the way it made you feel? Remember how trapped and uncomfortable you felt? This is the effect that "spaces" have on the human pysche. Therefore, the builders of "sacred spaces" have quite a responsibility....here are some examples of ones that I believe have done it well:

St. Paul's Lutheran Church
RDG Planning and Design
Des Moines, Iowa
First Presbyterian Church of Encino
Abramson Teiger Architects
Encino, California
St. Croix Lutheran High School Chapel
Kodet Architectural Group
St. Paul, Minnesota

(Keep checking back for updates on these case studies. I will post summaries of my discussions with the architects as I hear back from them.)

1 comment:

  1. You could add the Billy Graham Chapel to the above list for me :) I really like the pictures of it -- I'm going to visit there one day.