We know from the study of past civilizations that sacred space is central to human culture. The source of much of our greatest art and architecture, sacred space is where the infinitesimal and all-encompassing meet, prompting us to ponder our place in the universe. For that kind of contemplation, we need refuges of quietude and wonder. But sacred space also is where community begins, and for that we need places of lively assembly. Sacred space must be both.
Sanctuary and Refuge
We recognize that sacred space offers us respite from the everyday. Expressions of tradition in the architecture of a sacred space, whether in the form of religious ritual or iconic imagery, bring the comfort of human connection across a continuum of time.
Upon entering a sacred space, worshippers acclimate from the busy world outside to an inner haven of prayer. For that we create layers of arrival, all the way from a parking spot to a pew seat, each succeeding layer providing a still more explicit sense of enclosure and protection. Once inside, the final sanctuary is glorious and open to underscore the enormity of creation.
At the same time, we strive to balance the desire for inspiration with a culture of care for the less fortunate. We believe that the architect must share in this culture of care by responsibly managing the budget for constructing any sacred space.
Light can be more emotionally moving than the innate quality of any material it strikes. We use light to bring the outside in with a feeling of wonder. We reflect light against interior surfaces for a diffused, soft glow that we think conveys a visible kind of quiet. We sometimes use colored light via stained glass or other fixtures to yield beautiful effects.
Religious institutions long have been centers of community that bring people together in shared belief, thus sacred architecture reinforces a congregation’s society. It does so by enhancing ritual, welcoming a wide variety of gatherings, promoting sacred learning, and encouraging interaction, all things that bind congregants to each other. But it also should support congregants as individuals, offering them fellowship when lonely, succor in times of need, and celebration-marking milestones as they progress through the stages of life.