architecture and design thread

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amarikidd

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I’d like to start a current Catholic design commentary thread. Here are some subjects and sources. Maybe you can help me with direction and suggestions? (FYI, I love the moderns)
Please lets make this a no-DVC zone 😉 .

Sources of design theory for discussion:
Sacred Architecture Magazine sacredarchitecture.org/
Barb Nicolosi’s continuing ‘what is art’ discussion churchofthemasses.blogspot.com/

Current Design events:
Zaha Hadid, deconstructionist: 2004 Pritzker winner (as relates to the effect on modern religious design) zaha-hadid.com/index.html
Ave Maria’s new Chapel and alternatives: via cruxnews.com/rose/rose-14may04.html

Design Practitioners/Pieces
John Collier’s work, esp his Annunciation
(see www.hillstream.com)
Sarah Hemphil’s blog on design process (seesarahhempel.com/sculpture.html)
 
I think that is a good discussion. Perhaps we need to start with the official guidelines in place and start from there.

Built of Living Stones
Accommodating the Liturgical Postures of the Congregation
§ 85 § The location set aside for the people will convey their role within the liturgical assembly.106 The members of the congregation should be able to see the ministers at the altar, the ambo, and the chair.
§ 86 § Since the liturgy requires various postures and movements, the space and furniture for the congregation should accommodate them well.107 Styles of benches, pews, or chairs can be found that comfortably accommodate the human form. Kneelers or kneeling cushions should also be provided so that the whole congregation can easily kneel when the liturgy calls for it. Parishes will want to choose a seating arrangement that calls the congregation to active participation and that avoids any semblance of a theater or an arena. It is also important that the seating plan provide spaces for an unimpeded view of the sanctuary by people in wheelchairs or with walkers. Experience indicates that space in the front or at the sides of the church is better than in the rear where a standing congregation obscures the view of those seated in wheelchairs at the back of the church.
 
The above is important. I think they tried to address the problem in some of the more modern church’s built with no kneelers. The kneeling pads I believe are merely a fix for those who have built a church without kneelers and now must come into the norm called for.

We have a parish in our city which did that 10 years ago. Now they have a dilemma to solve. The good news is the new pastor is very good and trying to work around the wreck-o-vation of design this church poses to come into the norms called for.
 
There is a priest in New York that has the coolest job of all. He coordinates the architecture of new churches with the artwork on the interior. He will visit local artist to design and createstain glass windows, wood carvings, sculptures, tapestries, etc for the interiors of the church. There is a new church in Los Angeles (i think that is where it is), where this priest got all this together. I pictures and the interior was incredible. The community even implemented a Marian garden in the courtyard. 👍
 
How about the location of the Tabernacle? I find myself extremely uncomfortable when He’s off to the side or in another room, even when the space has “celebratory elements” to it. I feel most at ease when it’s located behind the Altar. When the Tabernacle is out of my perifery vision, sometimes I feel I’m at a tennis match, watch Jesus, look at Reader, watch Jesus, listen to Homily. Does this bother anyone else?
 
Yes. It bothers me. I feel off kilter when that happens to me. I have a sister that lives in Seattle, their church is in the round and the Tabernacle is off in a small room away from the Mass, the assembly. So the first time I went to church with her, I didn’t know in which direction to genuflect. I thought it odd that people that chose to sit on the side where the Tabernacle was, had to turn around to face the room, genuflect, then turn around again, with their back to the Tabernacle, to sit in the pew.
 
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amarikidd:
How about the location of the Tabernacle? I find myself extremely uncomfortable when He’s off to the side or in another room, even when the space has “celebratory elements” to it. I feel most at ease when it’s located behind the Altar. When the Tabernacle is out of my perifery vision, sometimes I feel I’m at a tennis match, watch Jesus, look at Reader, watch Jesus, listen to Homily. Does this bother anyone else?
I like it centered also. I especially like it there when entering the church. It shines like a beacon to me. If it’s not in the center I find myself genuflecting to the exit sign if they are remotely lit to resemble the light for the Tabernacle. I’m a presbyop…blind as a bat when coming in from outside light to indoors. 😉 It can be embarrassing when my eyesight adjusts and I realize it was an exit sign and not the Lord I just genuflected to. :eek:
 
I live in Los Angeles, and though i have not visited our lady of angels cathedral, i have seen many pictures of it and can say for sure it is HORRIBLE! dont get me wrong, i dont have anything against a few churches being built in the modern style of architecture, but this church looks like an oversized concrete bunker. Bland, ugly colors, and not even the mediocre artwork in it brings any justice to it. the website has some pictures of it if you wish to see yourself olacathedral.org/ just compare this with the madeline church in paris or notre dame, or even westminister or st pauls or st patricks. this city is going downhill and this just further reinforces my belief, as well as my belief in most architects these days having no taste what-so-ever…
 
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Marie:
can be embarrassing when my eyesight adjusts and I realize it was an exit sign and not the Lord I just genuflected to. :eek:
:crying: I’m laughing so hard I’m crying!

I’m going back to LA’s Cathedral at the end of June so maybe I’ll change my mind however I love the building but here are my complaints:
:mad: It reads like a federal building from the street.
Jesus in Tabernacle is banished to a small room off to the side (guess the architect decided to send HIM to His room…)
One Marian image shoved in back corner
Acoustics are haphazard
Niches surrounding the main church feel like mini-galleries, no intimate spaces to interact with God and Communion of Saints
Where are the stations?
👍 Tapestries are GORGEOUS-some in Poster Print form, buy one if you can.
I like the light filtered through the Alabaster
Open Plaza spaces are great but only if they are PUBLIC(it’s. semi-private)
I’m gonna try to hit confession to experience the confessional. Confessionals in Churches are like Bathrooms in Restaurants in that it makes or breaks the design of the church for me.
I visited Eliz. An. Seaton in Ft Worth last year. Thats a new contemporary curch and I really liked the design.
 
crimson dragon:
I live in Los Angeles, and though i have not visited our lady of angels cathedral, i have seen many pictures of it and can say for sure it is HORRIBLE! dont get me wrong, i dont have anything against a few churches being built in the modern style of architecture, but this church looks like an oversized concrete bunker. Bland, ugly colors, and not even the mediocre artwork in it brings any justice to it. the website has some pictures of it if you wish to see yourself olacathedral.org/ just compare this with the madeline church in paris or notre dame, or even westminister or st pauls or st patricks. this city is going downhill and this just further reinforces my belief, as well as my belief in most architects these days having no taste what-so-ever…
Sounds like you agree with several other people I have heard say that. I have not been and the pictures don’t give me much to go on. I think it looks pretty awful from the outside picture, the inside is hard to tell what to think. I found the cafe thing a bit odd but maybe it’s not. It just seems odd that the whole thing looks like a federal building with a cross on it from the outside.I can’t wrap my mind around the whole picture and I am not sure I want to. Cold and barren looking to me.

btw…this quote cracks me up. It’s about modern church design by an architect. Obviously he did not help design the one in LA.
Camilian Demetrescu:
The author minces no words, opening his essay with the line: “To speak of sacred architecture today, to a Church which is crushed, humiliated and degraded by the ignorance of its symbols, by the painful alienation of the remaining iconography, drowned in the schemes of disembodied abstraction, is equivalent to turning a knife in the wound”
 
I am very glad to see the discussion of church architecture being carried on at an apologetics website, as there is a strong connection between the doctrinal laxity of the last 30 years and the general (and uncanonical) innovations of modern church design. Lex orandi, lex credendi, as they say.

These, I believe, are the principal problems:
  1. The shape of the church.
  2. The arragement of tabernacle and sanctuary
  3. A poverty of liturgical and Sacramental imagination.
  4. A certain faddishness and confusion about the role of tradition and custom in church design and liturgy.
  5. The shape of the church.
The modern fan-shaped church, with raked seating and an amorphous volume, is without precedent before the 1960s. The early Christians, if certain notable hypotheses about the way they gathered around the tomb of Peter are correct, would have worshipped very similar to how we do today, with the priest on a raised platform and the people before (or behind) him. As Jews, such an arrangement would have been familiar to them from the Synagogue. Orientation ad orientem or versus populam seems to have depended on which way actual east was (and indeed, the congregation would sometimes turn their backs on the priest so to be facing in the same direction, as at Old St. Peter’s. Incidentally, most Orthodox Jews have an ‘ad orientem’ arrangement with their worship, their lecterns turned ‘around’ to face the Ark in their synagogues). So, the priest in front, with altar, people before, rather than around, him, seems to have a deep historical basis. Plus, the cruciform and anthropomorphic shape of ancient churches has a deep Christological significance which is lacking in most fan-shaped designs, which derive from auditorium models adopted by Protestant congregations with an emphasis on preaching. (The consensus in the past–exemplified by St. Charles Borromeo’s instructions–is that smaller, non-parochial churches, or memorial churches and oratories could use unconventional shapes, but the Cathedral and most large parish churches should be cruciform; even so, most parish churches, if not necessarily cross-shaped nonetheless preserved the longitudinal orientation of the traditional shape).
  1. Tabernacle and sanctuary. The precedent cited for most “Tabernacle-in-a-closet” designs is the major basilicas in Rome, which have a tabernacle at a side altar or separate chapel. This is not an applicable precedent as, for one, the major Basilicas have several liturgical peculiarities which are not intended to apply to parish churches at large. If they were, all the parish churches of Rome would have similar arrangements, and they dont. These circumstances are that the large volume of traffic would make prayerful reflection and Eucharistic Adoration impossible to carry out at the high altar, and also, it was the custom to remove the Sacrament from the high altar before a Solemn Pontifical Mass to a side chapel, which would have been celebrated very frequently in such basilicas. Such an arrangement would otherwise have been awkward. Also, the freestanding nature of most of their altars, as well as the Papal custom of celebrating mass ‘facing the people’ at St. Peters–because the church was oriented west rather than east, would have made such a practice awkward.
There is some evidence for episcopal thrones being placed in the apse, in the manner of the Presider’s chair of today, but the custom seems to have died out–and, while it is all good and well to strive for an understanding of primitive liturgical customs, there is the fact that some things were thrown out because they didn’t work. The liturgy and liturgical art has been time-tested, and mistakes got weeded out over the centuries. An indiscriminate attempt to strip away accretions in favor of an overzealous archaeologism can sometimes lead to problems.
  1. Poverty of Sacramental Imagination. Well, this one is hard to address: I suggest parishes hire artists with training and talent and the ability to draw people that look like people. On the whole, traditional-leaning artists work cheap since they’re hard to find and seldom get much work. In the mean time, pray a lot, look at icons and the Sistine Chapel and Beuronese art, and burn any felt banners your parish owns. Oh, and tell the priest to stop wearing the stole on the outside of the chausible. It’s forbidden.
(continued)
 
(sequentiae…)
  1. Faddishness. The growth of a class of ‘liturgical experts’ like Fr. Richard Vosko and a number of laymen has fostered a false understanding of the canonical requirements of a church. Nothing in Vatican II tells you to have Resurrection Crucifixes, bare churches, or tells you to take an axe to the reredos. On the whole, these folks tend to have their own agendas, and very seldom are supporting the canons. This sounds paranoid, but it’s the truth. A priest should inform himself of what Canon law requires, what Vatican II says, and decide for himself. Indeed, most of the cited documents (e.g., Environment and Art in Catholic Worship) have no legal or canonical standing whatsoever.
Also, bearing in mind the changes in emphasis that Vatican II made (and those are fewer than one would think, if you read the documents), it is OK to use preconciliar churches as models for one’s work. One just has to discriminate a little. Beautiful church design will mean a judicious use of the past, with some innovation, and a good deal of weeding out of false ideas. Churches should be timeless, splendid, imposing. The emphasis of late has been on the ‘simplicity’ side of ‘noble simplicity’ but the ‘noble’ part has to be remembered too. They shouldn’t scream ‘contemporary,’ since in 20 years it’ll look as dated as the 1970s. Neither should they necessarily scream ‘Baroque Rome, Circa 1640’ or 'Beuron, 1846," or even “Rome, c. 64 AD” as much as I would love to bring back Bernini and co. from the grave. A synthesis of the best of the last 2,000 years of Christian art will be the key to the next millenium.

Matt Alderman, aka “Borromini”
holywhapping.blogspot.com
 
Anyone have thoughts on the USSBC’s document Building Living Stone?
Building Living Stones:
The Role of the Apostolic See and the Diocesan Church
§ 178 § The Apostolic See has provided guidance for designing places of worship that is necessary and invaluable for the local community. In the work of constructing or renewing a place of worship, "primary authority and responsibility for the nature and quality of the church building rests with the local bishop."183 As the Code of Canon Law states, "No church is to be built without the express written consent of the diocesan bishop. . . . after having heard the presbyteral council and the rectors of the neighboring churches."184 Therefore, the building or renovation of a place for worship is a project that belongs to the local parish and the whole diocesan Church.185 Care must be exercised by the pastor and parish to consult with diocesan personnel from the earliest stages of the discernment process through the completion of the work. The diocesan liturgical commission or diocesan commission on liturgy and art assists with liturgical education and the development of the liturgical and artistic components of the building’s design. Some dioceses have additional building offices or similar agencies to help parishes with the selection of architects, engineers, and building contractors, and to provide valuable information about those who have successfully served the Church in the past. In the early stages of the project, the parish needs to be in communication with the appropriate diocesan office or commission in developing the budget for the project and the financial plan, since these require the approval of the bishop and his financial advisors. This document is designed to assist diocesan bishops in developing local norms and procedures to guide parishes in church design and construction and to provide knowledgeable advisors for the local parish, especially in the complex areas of engineering and construction.
Do you think this will help or hinder the restoration of our sacred spaces?
 
“Built of Living Stones” was not well received by Duncan Stroik, the best church architect practicing at present, and indeed, its a bit on the vague side. I don’t have any memory of any specific complaints, besides it garbling and playing down history, (as well as the unpromising shift of the title from the Christocentric “Domus Dei” to the more congregation-focused “Living Stones”). I’m not sure it will change much; though it is a great improvement from the excessively experimental “Environment and Art in Catholic Worship.”

That being said, if you want a good guide to Church architecture for the third millenium, read Steven Schloeder’s book, Architecture in Communion.
 
One more thing: Marie, about genuflecting to Exit signs. I once mistook a potted plant for a vigil light, and this was at Sant’ Ignazio in Rome (playing “hunt the Tabernacle.”)
 
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Borromini:
One more thing: Marie, about genuflecting to Exit signs. I once mistook a potted plant for a vigil light, and this was at Sant’ Ignazio in Rome (playing “hunt the Tabernacle.”)
Fellow Presbyop perhaps? 🙂 I once went into what I thought was the confessional in a Church in Tx when we were on vacation and started my confession. I got no response from the priest for the longest time. I really was beginning to wonder if I had said something really wrong. When my eyesight finally adjusted, I discovered that the cubical I thought was the confessional was a storeroom and the guy I thought was a priest sitting in the chair, was part of an old statue. SIGH! It’s not easy being blinded by the light. :eek:
 
That is one weird tabernacle in the LA Cathedral. If I wouldn’t hae known better I would have thought those to be alien containers in Roswell New Mexico. The tapestries are very impressive though.
 
Ugh, how L.A.! Ugh!

And they boast, on their website, (Cathedral overview) how Cathedrals used to take centuries, but they built their in three years… Ugh! It shows!

It’s so Hollywood!
 
Borromini said:
“Built of Living Stones” was not well received by Duncan Stroik, the best church architect practicing at present, and indeed, its a bit on the vague side. I don’t have any memory of any specific complaints, besides it garbling and playing down history, (as well as the unpromising shift of the title from the Christocentric “Domus Dei” to the more congregation-focused “Living Stones”). I’m not sure it will change much; though it is a great improvement from the excessively experimental “Environment and Art in Catholic Worship.”

That being said, if you want a good guide to Church architecture for the third millenium, read Steven Schloeder’s book, Architecture in Communion.

I thought I remembered that. It does read a bit vague. That must be how LA got around so many things. I don’t know. Speaking of which, does anyone know if LA has kneelers and how they are going to handle the kneeling problem if they don’t?

I wondered if this is one of the reasons Cardinal Mahoney is balking on the new document and saying it needs work still. HMMM!
 
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