After Le Corbusier's Notre Dame du Haut set the pace, religious buildings in many places were designed to resemble galleries or museums
Deeply rooted in tradition, the religious buildings of the past were dominant, didactic figures -- in social life but also in architecture, as made clear by Ludwig Wittgenstein's claim that architecture "compels and glorifies ... where there is nothing to glorify there can be no architecture."
A new point of view emerged in 1920s New York City, setting of The Fountainhead, with Howard Roark's Temple Dedicated to the Human Spirit. It seemed both religious buildings specifically and architecture generally were on the threshold of being democratized. Outside of literary fiction, though, the actual process of change didn't take off until a couple of decades later. Even today, it's still limited to certain areas of the world. Elsewhere, religious buildings remain patronizing, designed to intimidate.
Ever since Le Corbusier's masterpiece Notre Dame du Haut set the pace, the religious structures of the immediate present for many of us have been very much on the neutral artistic side -- more akin to museums, galleries, or centers than to institutional buildings. Aesthetics, inventive lighting, and distinctive looks are all of great importance in making today's structures immediately recognizable, easy to embrace and identify with, more related to their audience and surroundings.
View the complete OpenBuildings collection: Contemporary Religious Buildings.
Image: Milo Keller.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.