At a time when spiritual renewal and awakening is growing around the globe, and the hunger for the transcendence of sacred space is felt even by self-proclaimed atheists, many members of the architectural and academic cultures in the developed world are loathe to use the “S” Word.” The “S” word, either “sacred” or “spiritual,” is avoided in favor of words that are less suggestive of religious belief: “immeasurable,” “ineffable,” “oceanic,” “absence,” and “void.”
The palpable discomfort evidenced by many architects and academicians in proximity to the “S” word could be a symptom of their own disbelief or uncertainty. But a tendency on the part of architects to uncouple the act of belief--of coming together as a community of believers--from the space in which that gathering happens, and why it happens, ultimately keeps architecture at a safe distance from the immeasurable, the ineffable, and the mysterious.
This presentation explores the hesitancy to use the “S” word in certain circles, the nature of “sacred architecture” versus an “architecture of the sacred,” the growing interest of young architects and students to explore the spiritual in their work, and the place of architects and architecture in creating sacred space.
Michael J. Crosbie, Ph.D., FAIA, is Professor of Architecture at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut. He has served as the editor-in-chief of Faith & Form: The Interfaith Journal on Religion, Art, and Architecture since 2001. Dr. Crosbie is the author of more than 20 books on architecture, and has edited and contributed to approximately 20 others. The author of hundreds of articles on architecture, design, and practice, Dr. Crosbie is a frequent contributor to international print and online publications, and lectures on architecture throughout the United States and abroad. A registered architect, Dr. Crosbie was the Walton Visiting Critic at The Catholic University of America School of Architecture and Planning in 2015.