Friday, July 29, 2011

Master's Project

I am in architecture school pursuing my master's degree.  This year, my final year, I will be doing a final Master's Project of my choosing.  Similar to a thesis (though not the same--I don't have to write a paper and defend it the way thesis students typically do), I will be doing research this Fall semester and then will complete the project in the Spring.

I get to choose what the project will be.

I want to do a Catholic Church.

Is that surprising?

Lately, I have been fascinated with what it means to experience sacred space.  Of course, sacred space can mean more than just churches, but Christian churches are the ones I am most familiar with and, especially after visiting many churches and cathedrals in Italy during a study abroad four years ago, I am struck with how powerful and spiritual a space can feel simply because of the symbolism, tradition, and meaning it holds.  There is a theology embedded in the walls of many churches, and that fascinates me.

Of course, I haven't figured out exactly how this will unfold into a real project yet, but hopefully at the beginning of the fall semester, I will have a better idea.  Already I have been reading a number of books and articles that explore this issue, especially in relation to the modernist functionalism and how it has impacted contemporary churches.  How do we combat the blank walls and central plans (with no historical significance) while still creating an architecture that does not dwell on the past but is relevant today?  After all, the Church herself is not an ancient set of rituals with no contemporary relevance, but a living faith that bears a long standing tradition that is only stronger in today's world because of its heritage.

I am aware that my task will not be an easy one, especially because of the nature of a public institution (that, more often than not, seeks to be "tolerant" and "inclusive" by subtly excluding any sort of religious implications), the more mainstream modern ideologies of current students and professors, and the fact that most professors would prefer to impose their personal agendas onto specific students.  But, the more I read, the more excited I become, and I don't want to let myself down now.

So, I'll use this as a tool to report on my progress as well as keep my thoughts together.  Next week perhaps I will discuss the experiential nature of architecture and how it relates to the sacraments.