Institute for Studies
in Sacred Architecture
At the very core of the religious impulse is the longing to make sense of the human condition in the cosmos. From prehistory humanity has sought to order our environment, to express our conceptions of the order of creation, and to mediate the disclosure of the divine through myth, ritual, and sacred building. We use symbolic structures to do this: we naturally seek, discover, make, adapt, and use such deep symbols, which then become the matrix, the principle, and the vehicle for our experience of sacred architecture.
Among the world religions there are profound architectonic similarities, and obvious differences, that ought to be appreciated and better understood. Sacred architecture participates in a variety of symbol types -natural, conventional, and revealed -that find surprising consonances among differing traditions. Chief among these are body, tent, temple, palace, city, land, water, mountain, and cave. There are also commonly repeating cosmological and geometrical configurations. We see these "family resemblances" despite the obvious differences in culturally derived forms, which can be ascribed to differences in building technologies, climates, cultic requisites, and mythopoetics. Both similarities and differences in the architectonic expression of sacred places are to be appreciated and can be held in contemplative tension.
Despite the fact that sacred architecture constitutes the vast majority of historical architecture before the modern age, and it in many ways has constituted or influenced our understanding of the built environment, there is currently no other single institution of higher education that is devoted to the study of sacred architecture. Furthermore, contemporary architectural education is either unwilling or incapable of dealing with the transcendent horizon in architectural discourse. This can only impoverish architectural education and our contemporary architectural and urban design practices.
A fuller vision for the human person, for the intrinsically religious nature of humanity, and for the transcendental values of architecture such as beauty, meaning, language, and cultural memory will help students and practitioners alike to create both religious and secular buildings and spaces that are more humane, rich, rewarding, beautiful, and meaningful for their clients and communities.
The Institute will advance the study of sacred architecture, both in its historical contexts and in contemporary praxis, from a wide range of academic disciplines: architectural and art history, comparative religion, consciousness theory, cosmology, contemporary architectural theory, cultural anthropology, design theory, enculturation studies, mathematics, philosophy, psychology, semiotics, science, sociology, and theology.
The vision of the Institute is to reintroduce the question of the transcendent, the numinous, and the spiritual into contemporary architectural discourse, especially in the architectural academy, through working with concerned colleagues and students of architecture seeking meaning for their own work.
home about us vision programs E-Zine publications affiliations registration contact us
The Institute for Studies in Sacred Architecture (ISSA) is sponsored by Liturgical Environs
©2004 Institute for Studies in Sacred Architecture