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Buildings Are Not Sacred, but We Can Find Beauty Through Them

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

What makes something sacred? When does a building mean more to us than nearly all other places, spaces, objects, or activities in our lives? Architects strive to achieve the sacred in buildings, but it’s the rest of us who either sense it or not, whatever the aesthetics may be. I think the meaning of what is sacred to us can be most profoundly seen and felt when things change.

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Spiritual Journeys: Religious Architecture in the Global South

Religious architecture has always had a unique power to transcend the physical realm, transporting visitors to a spiritual journey. In many belief systems, it serves as a space between the earthly and the universal divine. This designed experience can often be facilitated through different choices, where light, form, materiality, and circulation play essential roles. Furthermore, architecture and design hold the power to have a profound impact on one’s lived spiritual experience.

This exploration of religious architecture in the global south showcases the integration of tradition and contemporary innovation. Whether it’s the Omani Mosque, where heritage and Islamic tradition are honored, or the Abrahamic Family House that features a mosque, a church, and a synagogue in dialogue and coexistence. Form and public access are explored through a design in Brazil, while a monastery in Uganda expands its size to serve guests and novitiate.

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How to Frame Dawn in England's Cathedrals

Using only natural light to document English cathedrals can turn into a logistical and technical challenge. However, Peter Marlow's photography has resulted in a remarkable series of iconic spiritual sites whose contemplative atmosphere is rarely accessible to others. Looking east with the camera towards the nave as the dawn light streamed through the main window opens a purist and mystical perspective to the time when these sacred structures were erected. 

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Henning Larsen Designs Church with Wooden Roof Domes in Copenhagen

Henning Larsen has revealed the first images of the Ørestad Church, the first church to be built in Copenhagen in the last 30 years. The modern monument is built in wood and wood shingle, reflecting Ørestad’s open natural landscape and embracing the identity of the local community. The intention was to create a serene space, detached from the bustle of the city, where the calmness and simplicity of interior spaces can offer residents solace from their everyday life. Construction is expected to start in 2024, and the church will be consecrated in 2026.

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Crafting for Contemplation: The Minimal vs. The Ornamental

A few weeks ago, this year’s edition of the Serpentine Pavilion opened to the public. Designed by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, it’s an evocative project, its cylindrical form referencing American beehive kilns, English bottle kilns, and Musgum adobe homes found in Cameroon.

What the pavilion is named tells the viewer a lot more about its intentions as a spatial experience. Titled Black Chapel, it houses a spacious room with wraparound benches, and an oculus above that allows daylight to filter into the space. It’s a fairly minimal interior – designed as a site for contemplation and reflection. This minimal quality of Gates’ Serpentine Pavilion raises particularly interesting questions. How artists and architects opt for a “less is more” approach when designing meditative spaces, but also how these introspective spaces have been equally enhanced by ornamentation.

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Ukrainian Architectural Landmarks Face the Threat of Destruction

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Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash . ImageLviv

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine unleashed a major humanitarian and refugee crisis, with 4.2 million people fleeing into neighbouring countries and 6.5 displaced internally. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), 18 million people are projected to become affected in the near future with the current scale and direction of the ongoing military violence. In addition to the threat to human lives, Ukraine’s culture is also at risk, as cities and historic buildings are being destroyed. In March, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has expressed concern over the damage caused to historic landmarks in Ukraine and called for the protection of its cultural heritage. The following are some of Ukraine’s most prominent architectural landmarks, which are now in danger of being destroyed amid the conflict.

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Santiago Calatrava Rebuilds 9/11 Struck St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine

Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava is rebuilding World Trade Center’s St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York City. The church, which was destroyed during the 9/11 attacks, began its reconstruction process in 2015, and is finally reaching completion in 2022. The new structure's design is inspired by a mosaic of Istanbul's Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, formerly the Church of Hagia Sophia, which was one of the fundamental factors in defining the original architecture of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.

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Zürich City Guide: 23 Spots Architecture Enthusiasts Shouldn’t Miss

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© Virginia Duran

The historical Roman town has been busy at work and new exciting buildings, squares, and public parks have bloomed across the city. Since my first trip to Zürich in 2014, a lot has happened around good old Turicum.

After a compelling trip organized by Visit Zürich and my friend Philipp Heer, we were able to visit some of the newest, most interesting and uplifting places of the city. Flitting hither and thither, Roc Isern, David Basulto, and I enjoyed the privilege of a tailored itinerary, access to Zürich's gems, and perhaps the most inspiring, the architects behind these amazing structures.

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Henning Larsen Designs New Church in Højvangen, Denmark, the First to be Built in Skanderborg Parish in Over 500 years

Henning Larsen has won a competition to design Højvangen Church, the first church to be built in Skanderborg Parish in over 500 years. The new intervention, set to be completed and inaugurated by December 2024, will be a new public gathering point in the growing residential area of Højvangen in Skanderborg, Denmark.

What Is Sacred Space?

We are in an unholy mess. It is a pandemic, with insane politics, and centuries of hideous racial injustice screaming out humanity’s worst realities.  Each day reveals more disease, more anger, more flaws in our culture than anyone could have anticipated.

This season’s inscrutable fears are uniquely human. The natural world flourishes amid our disasters. But architecture is uniquely human, too.  Architecture’s Prime Directive is to offer up safety. So in this time of danger, it is a good idea to think about the flip side of so much profane injustice and cruelty, Sacred Space? Architecture can go beyond playing it safe and aspire to evoke the best of us, making places that touch what can only be defined as Sacred.

What is Sacred Space? Whether human-made or springing from the natural world, Sacred Space connects us to a reality that transcends our fears. The ocean, the forest, the rising or setting sun may all define “Sacred”. But humans can make places that hold and extend the best in us beyond the world that inevitably threatens and saddens us. Architecture can create places where we feel part of a Sacred reality.

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Restoration of Abandoned Church Connects Man, Nature, and God

Changtteul Church, is an old place of worship in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, that gets its name from the term "changtteul", meaning "a frame containing a window", in Korean. As its name suggests, the building's character lies in its series of windows, giving the visitors both outside and inside a unique experience of light and scenery.

Designers Hanyoung Jang and Hanjin Jang of studio minorormajor utilized the windows of Changtteul as a metaphorical motif for their design concept: the first being the 'window between man and God', and the second being ‘the window between man and nature’, immersing the abandoned religious facility with dramatic experiences.

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Rocco Designs Skyscraper Church in Hong Kong

Rocco Design Architects created a vertical church, on a challenging site in Wan Chai District, Hong Kong. The Wesleyan House Methodist Church, with its 11,000m² program, sits on a tight 800m² plot, making it inevitable to go up and generate a skyscraper structure.

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Safdie Architects Propose Conceptual Design for the Abrahamic Family House

Safdie Architects’ entry for the Abrahamic Family House competition located in the Saadiyat Island Cultural District, in Abu Dhabi, brings together a mosque, a synagogue, and a church within a shared public park.

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Adjaye Associates Selected to Design the Human Fraternity Project in Abu Dhabi

Adjaye Associates have been selected as the winners of The Abrahamic Family House competition, in Abu Dhabi. The landmark project, on Saadiyat Island, is a space where 3 religions will come together with the implementation of a mosque, a synagogue, and a church.

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Luoyuan Anglican Church / INUCE • Dirk U. Moench

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Luoyuan, China
  • Area Area of this architecture project Area:  5950
  • Year Completion year of this architecture project Year:  2011
  • Manufacturers Brands with products used in this architecture project
    Manufacturers:  Shanghai Wei Qing Glass Products