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Michael Rotondi on His Approach to Designing Sacred Spaces

There are few challenges within architecture as distinctive as designing religious or spiritual spaces. While these projects share the functional challenges of more everyday architecture, the expectation of a deeply-felt spiritual experience adds an extra challenge to these designs that make them unlike most other commissions. How can architects approach such a challenge? In this excerpt from Sherin Wing's forthcoming book "Designing Sacred Spaces," Michael Rotondi of RoTo Architecture discusses how his approach to life informs his approach to designing religious architecture.

Mr. Rotondi’s outlook is guided by an unending curiosity: “I want to know everything about everything before I die and it’s not possible. So I see any project that comes along as a potential research project as well as whatever the practical things I have to solve. So I’m always trying to think about the things I think about often and in different ways. It would be nice if I could see the world as if for the first time like children do, where you have no basis for knowing something because it’s the first time you’ve seen it, it’s the first time you’ve experienced it. And so you see it with great wonder. When you see things over and over again, you see them like an expert.

Michael Rotondi to Receive Richard J. Neutra Medal for Professional Excellence

Michael Rotondi, principle of Los Angeles-based RoTo Architecture and former student of Cal Poly Pomona, has been selected to receive the Richard J. Neutra Medal for Professional Excellence from the College of Environmental Design at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Co-founder of SCI-Arc and long-time architectural educator at Arizona State University, Rotondi was selected for his “commitment to architectural education, for the concern he shows in his work for society and the environment, and for the inventiveness of his architecture,” says Cal Poly Pomona professor Sarah Lorenzen.

Interview: Michael Rotondi on Architecture Education

Given the state of the economy around the world, many people are returning to school in the hopes of acquiring new skills while riding out the worst of the effects of the global recession. Toward that end, ArchDaily has begun a College Guide to help people explore different educational options. There are many issues to consider beyond a school’s “name” such as the types of programs architecture schools offer. The Guide has highlighted schools with programs in Building Ecology, Forensic Architecture, and Human Rights, to name a few, while some of the practical issues have included cost analysis, financial aid, and access to cross-disciplinary training. 

What has not been explored in the Guide because of its scope is a more theoretical examination of pedagogical strategies. What direction has architecture academics taken and where should it go in order to remain socially relevant, practically agile, and economically competitive? To discuss these issues, we interviewed Michael Rotondi,  a founding student and current Distinguished faculty member of SCI-Arc and principle at RoTo Architecture. Throughout the conversation, Mr. Rotondi’s insight combine with a constant and voracious intellectual curiosity to provide visions that are important to both students and educators. 

Read our interview with Michael Rotondi after the break