Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Worship "spaces"

David Greusel, the architect who designed PNC Park, where the Pittsburgh Pirates play, is a Christian with concern about the direction church architecture has taken over the last century. In an article about him at WORLD magazine, his views are summarized:
.... In an online essay called "God's Trailer," Greusel boldly states that "bad church architecture is as much the result of bad theology as it is of bad design"—meaning that an overemphasis on saving souls has blinded some congregations to the value of nurturing souls. Too many Christians buy into a perversion of the old architectural saw that "form follows function," seeing their buildings as so many square feet of function with a cross stuck on, instead of a place to direct our attention to God's glory.

Greusel likes to quote Winston Churchill: "First, we shape our buildings, then they shape us." He believes the need for Christian architects who bring their worldview to their work has never been greater, for at least three reasons. One, the "creation mandate" (Genesis 1:28) implies that we can continue God's work on earth by designing spaces that are both useful and beautiful. Also, as creatures made in His image, we honor God by following in His creative footsteps and striving for excellence. And finally, designing (and insisting on) beautiful buildings puts us on the front lines of the culture war: Against the dreary functionalism, commodification, and standardization of concrete boxes, our buildings can reflect both the glory of God and the humanity of man—whether their primary function is to encourage worship or to showcase a perfect double play.

Architecture is a serious calling, but also a joyful and optimistic one, combining the pragmatic with the poetic. .... (more)
And from David Greusel's essay, "God’s Trailer":
.... Church designers (again, uniformly but not universally) are guilty of following the dicta of modernism that we were all taught in school, the ABCs of architecture: Form follows function, ornament is crime, less is more, and so on. These axioms, questionable in their own right, become downright deadly when applied to the design of worship spaces, where the “function” of encountering the Divine Presence is much harder to express in a formula than the function of holding, say, 500 seats and a choir. And it is the former function which invariably gets shorted when church design is limited to functional problem-solving. ....

In North America, the Church (broadly understood) has always been underfunded, yet it did not until recent decades build so poorly. Even frontier chapels erected in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by pioneer communities have a dignity and beauty that is largely lacking in the North American Church’s more recent physical manifestations. And it is hard to argue that our communities are actually poorer than they were seventy or eighty or 120 years ago. .... (more)
WORLDmag.com | All-star architecture | Janie B. Cheaney | Jun 30, 12, God’s Trailer | Cardus Blog

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