Architecture for Worship Must Walk a Fine Line .pdf
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Architecture for Worship Must Walk a Fine Line
The 2016 World Architecture Festival is scheduled for the Arena Berlin in Germany, from November 16-18. Finalists for all
of the categories have already been announced, including a number of impressive buildings in the religious architecture
category. From the Amhult Church in Sweden to the Vasrajana Buddhist Retreat Centre in England, today's houses of
worship are distinctly different from their ancestors. And yet there's a fine line that must be walked with this kind of
Houses of worship are unique structures in that they are designed to provide an environment that enables worshipers to
get in touch with a higher power. The last thing any architect wants to do is come up with is a design that distracts from
that purpose. But this is no easy task. Why? Because distractions can be both positive and negative.
A negative distraction would be some kind of element that worshipers find unattractive in some way. If that element is
unattractive enough, it can easily become the focal point of the space. Then worshipers are more concerned about
covering up or fixing that element than they are with worship.
A positive distraction would be just the opposite. It would be an element that is so visually appealing as to command
more attention than it deserves. Rather than focusing on worship, people spend their time focusing on the architectural
features they so much appreciate. The building becomes the higher power.
Modern but Still Relevant
One of the keys to successful worship architecture is coming up with something that is modern but still relevant. Sparano
+ Mooney, well-known architects in Salt Lake City, Utah, have struck the right balance with their design of the St. Francis
of Assisi Roman Catholic Church. The architectural firm worked with the church's building committee to create a new
parish building that incorporated both relevant liturgical principles and modern design.
Upon first arriving at the church grounds, it is easy to see that the purpose of the property is worship. Yet at the same
time, the church is not a cathedral-style building reminiscent of Renaissance Europe. It offers visitors a wide open
exterior space that leads to an inviting building structure that evokes calmness and serenity. Interior spaces are bright,
spacious, and very much in keeping with the kind of atmosphere the church wants for parishioners.
Other architects in Salt Lake City have built equally impressive structures for worshipers. But doing so requires a
tremendous amount of work, cooperation, and a vision for what worshipers might expect from their new space.
Warm and Inviting
A second challenge architect’s face when designing houses of worship is one of creating a space that is warm and inviting
even from the street. No one wants to attend religious services in a building that looks cold and uncomfortable. So the
challenge becomes designing something that is modern on the one hand but still welcoming on the other.
Salt Lake City is the perfect environment for the Sparano + Mooney St. Francis of Assisi design. That same building would
never fly in the Bible Belt of the American South. There they prefer more traditional looking architecture reminiscent of
the colonial days.
The World Architecture Festival will have its say in determining what the best worship designs are for 2016. Meanwhile,
parishioners of Saint Francis of Assisi will continue to enjoy worshiping in their modern space. And architects in Salt Lake
City and throughout the world will continue to strive to create the kinds of worship spaces that walk that fine line
between architectural genius and meaningful worship.