Spiritual Architecture has seen transformative development with the recent innovations in material and construction technology. As our cultures are evolving, our places of worship are moving away from symbolic imagery of heavenly abodes to clean and geometric volumes, where light and shadows become the subject of worship and contemplation.
Here are 20 awe-inspiring spiritual buildings built in the last 6 decades (from the latest to the oldest):
1. Huaxiang Christian Centre, China
Architect: INUCE studio
A pastel-pink church hall has been added to the 1938 built Huaxiang Church in Fuzhou, featuring rooftop amphitheaters that offer open-air services. The design harmonizes imbalances by adopting the role of urban mediator by folding its contours and modulating its vertical development in a continuous up-and-down movement, the volume is visually scaled down into fragments, allowing this seven-time larger structure to relate in proportion to the tiny church at its side. The fragments decrease in height the closer they are to the historic building, showcasing its bell tower and evoking the impression of an organically grown skyline. The height and form of the building were controlled by height restrictions. But it was possible to fold the walls of the structure to create a distinctive form that differentiates it from the surrounding buildings. The entire building is clad in pink pebbledash, giving it a different form and color.
2. Church of St Jacques De La Lande, France
Architect: Álvaro Siza Vieira
This Church features a sculptural composition of intersecting concrete forms. A white concrete exterior echoes the appearance of other buildings in the area, while the use of crisply rendered geometric volumes is a motif Siza has turned to throughout his lengthy career. The entrance atrium is flanked by a pair of rectangular volumes that extend the full height of the building. Two identical forms create corners at the opposite end, on either side of a half-cylinder that cantilevers from the upper floor. The rectangular shapes intersect with the central cylinder containing the church hall, creating nooks around the perimeter.
3. Baháʼí Temple, Chile
Architects: Hariri Pontarini Architects
Its nine monumental glass veils frame an open and accessible worship space where up to 600 visitors can be accommodated on curved walnut. The basic concept was to capture light by using innovation and materials. So the exterior of cast glass to an interior of translucent Portuguese marble would emit the light in the temple. At sunset, the light captured within the dome shifts from white to silver to ochre and purple. Located in an earthquake zone, the structure was designed to withstand extreme earthquakes and wind. The super-structures of the wings are comprised of thousands of individually engineered steel members and nodal connections. Each of the wings rests on concrete columns on seismic bearings, so that in the event of an earthquake, the building can slide to absorb the shock.
4. Makomanai Takino Cemetery, Japan
Architect: Tadao Ando
To derive attention to the statue which sat alone for 15 years, the architect thought to hide it. The hill around the Buddha statue is planted with 150,000 lavenders — green in spring, purple in summer, and white with snow in winter. The design intention was to create a vivid spatial sequence, beginning with the long approach through the tunnel in order to heighten anticipation of the statue, which is invisible from the outside When the hall is reached at the end of the 40-meter approach tunnel, visitors look up at the 1,500 ton Buddha, whose head is framed by a halo of the sky. The use of raw concrete, dramatic play of natural light, and the interplay of interior and exterior spaces almost having all the characteristics of Ando’s work.
5. Bosjes Chapel, South Africa
Architects: Steyn Studio
Its serene sculptural form compliments the surrounding mountain ranges and complementing the surrounding ranges. Constructed from a slim concrete cast shell, the roof supports itself as each undulation dramatically falls to meet the ground. Where each wave of the roof structure rises to a peak, expanses of glazing adjoined centrally by a crucifix adorn the facade. The crisp white form is conceived as a light weight and dynamic structure that appears to float within the valley. A reflective pond emphasizes the apparent weightlessness of the structure.
6. Pueblo Serena Church, Mexico
Architect: Moneo Brock Studio
In its design, the architect aimed to create a volume that would go beyond the religious rituals and liturgical events. The various interconnected bodies that make up the exterior are inspired by and give the impression of traditional religious architecture but are simultaneously modern. Despite its segmented, sheared exterior, the structure is classical in function and presents a reinterpreted vision of a bell tower, stained glass windows, baptistry, chapel, and lateral courtyard.
7. Ribbon Chapel, Japan
Architect: Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP
Breaking the norm of regular cathedral architecture, this church follows a new form. Two spiral staircases that are mutually supporting each other and self-standing resulting in a free-standing structure. The building’s exterior is finished in upright wood panels, painted white. Applying titanium zinc alloy, a material resistant to damage from the sea breeze and flexible enough to be applied on a curved surface
8. Cardboard Cathedral, New Zealand
Architect: Shigeru Ban
This cathedral was made as a replacement for the city’s iconic 1864 Anglican cathedral which was destroyed in an earthquake. The Cardboard Cathedral, constructed as a simple A-frame structure from 98 equally sized cardboard tubes and 8 steel shipping containers. It is said to be one of the safest, earthquake-proof buildings in Christchurch. Aside from the building’s structural integrity, each paper tube is coated with waterproof polyurethane and flame retardants while protected by a semi-transparent, polycarbonate roof.
9. Martin Luther Church, Austria
Architect: Coop Himmelblau
The shape of the building is derived from that of a huge table, with its entire roof construction resting on the four steel columns. Another key element is the ceiling of the prayer room its design language has been developed from the shape of the curved roof of a building. The Play of light and transparency is quite evident. In the ceiling, the light comes above from three large winding openings in the roof.
10. Kol Shofar, Tiburon
Architect: Herman coliver architects
Kol Shofar is a Conservative synagogue founded in 1962 and located in Tiburon, California. In 2006 they submitted plans to expand their place. Due to some legal issues regarding environmental and land use violations, the construction was delayed. The project was started in 2009, in which they incorporated a brand new 8,300-square-foot social hall, additional parking, and four classrooms, as well as a renovated sanctuary space. The architect wanted to create the ambiance of nature as the light is coming through slatted wood. The wood is in variable dimensions so the light is hitting every piece of wood along the curved path a little differently. The open round space in the sanctuary gives a feel of a redwood grove. The curved rows of seating are colored with a burnt red fabric, matching the bark of the trees nearby.