Creating sacred space: a Spiritualist church

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


When contemplating the history of religious architecture several typologies become apparent. There is the refinement of Gothic cathedrals where the volume and use of material not only reinforced the liturgy but gave breath to a tempo of chant. There also is the small New England chapel steeple and modest gable which provide such a compelling image that it has become an icon in American culture. This thesis explores the design of a sacred space independent of traditional symbolism. Rather than attempting to refine an existing typology this design explored what is fundamental in creating a sacred space. A church for a congregation of Spiritualists, who currently are renovating a Methodist church in Georgetown. [2]

This design is centered on a few elements. In response to Spiritualist liturgy which is devoid of an altar there is an exploration of defining void thus creating a focal point by the enclosure of space. The importance of views is emphasized, expressly views to sacred areas that are not actually touched. Layering of transparency is explored which provides a vehicle for information between discrete areas.