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Hallelujah! Heavenly architecture in the 21st Century


December 10, 2013

Organized religion has provided the inspiration and budget for some of the world's most im...

Organized religion has provided the inspiration and budget for some of the world's most impressive buildings, including some modern architectural masterpieces

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Whatever one's particular faith – or indeed, lack thereof – there's no denying that organized religion has provided the inspiration and budget for the construction of some mighty impressive buildings. Gizmag takes a look at five of the most interesting designs for houses of worship to have recently seen the light.

Though browsing through the historic archives would of course provide many examples of note, we've concentrated on outstanding recent works that have embraced modern design principles and in some cases, sustainable technology. There's no bias on any particular faith, just the design of the buildings themselves, whether concept, work in progress, or a completed build.

Bishop Edward King Chapel

An independent timber structure gives form to the interior (Photo: Niall McLaughlin Archit...

Bishop Edward King Chapel, by Niall McLaughlin Architects was commissioned to serve a small theological college and an order of nuns in rural Oxfordshire, England.

The building's exterior facade features dog-toothed stonework and follows an elliptical form that proved quite a challenge to the stonemasons who labored on its construction. An independent timber structure gives form to the interior and provides seating for up to 120 people, as well as several areas for quiet contemplation.

Proving itself a truly modern chapel, there's some degree of sustainable technology involved in the build, including underfloor heating, natural ventilation, automatically opening windows, and solar shading. The chapel was also built using renewable timber and natural stone.

Church Wünsdorf

The concept was designed by GRAFT (Image: GRAFT)

The futuristic Confessional Church and Multifunction Hall by GRAFT is an ambitious concept envisioned for the territory around Wünsdorf, Germany, which served as the Russian army's headquarters until the close of the cold war.

GRAFT approached the project with the aim of designing a house of worship which does not exclusively cater to any one faith system, but is instead inclusive. The building's distinctive diamond form derives from three different geometric shapes that fuse together to become one. Inside, a the large building contains a series of hidden mechanical gubbins under the floor which seamlessly transform the space from church to theater at the push of the button.

Alas, the Church Wünsdorf remains just a concept at this point.

Sancaklar Mosque

The building is sure to become another religious landmark of the area once completed (Phot...

With nary a minaret nor dome in sight, the Sancaklar Mosque by Emre Arolat Architects doesn't attempt to replicate the architectural style of the historic mosques found within the walls of nearby Istanbul, but rather features a beautifully simple cave-like underground space – making it possibly the world's only underground mosque.

Located on a prairie landscape, the building displays only a simple long canopy from the outside, with access to the mosque proper being gained via a path that runs from the upper courtyard. Inside, the spartan stone decor is illuminated by daylight thanks to slits in the wall.

The stonework looks to be truly outstanding and the building is sure to become another religious landmark of the area once completed.

Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch

The cathedral features 98 cardboard tubes (Photo: Shigeru Ban Architects)

Back in February 2011, an earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, resulting in widespread damage and the tragic loss of 185 lives. Among the buildings severely impacted was the Anglican Cathedral, which was subsequently demolished. While funds are collected for a replacement, cardboard tube aficionado Shigeru Ban has constructed a cardboard stand-in using some 98 cardboard tubes.

Of course, the cathedral isn't constructed solely from cardboard, and both shipping containers and timber structural supports feature in the design, however it's a compelling and unique religious structure from the always interesting Shigeru Ban Architects.

Titanium Cathedral of the Northern Lights

The Cathedral of Northern Lights was designed by schmidt hammer lassen following a competi...

The Cathedral of the Northern Lights, in Alta, Norway, is by far the most northerly of our picks, located 500 km (311 miles) within the frigid Arctic Circle – it's also arguably the most impressive looking.

The Cathedral of Northern Lights was designed by schmidt hammer lassen following a competition held to choose a new church for the region. The cathedral measures 1,917 sq m (20,634 sq ft) and can seat 350. Unusually, the exterior is clad in titanium, which is rather costly to work with, but does offer the benefit of producing a striking building that's a genuine landmark for the area.

What do you think?

Naturally, a list of five interesting houses of worship can't claim to be exhaustive, so please let us know in the comments if you have any personal favorites.

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road.

  All articles by Adam Williams

One that comes to mind is the Crystal Cathedral.

10th December, 2013 @ 06:48 am PST

The mosque looks like a public toilet

10th December, 2013 @ 06:19 pm PST

Inspiring... I can just see the a few of these as sets for the another Planet of the Apes movie. The future is now!

Mark A
10th December, 2013 @ 09:00 pm PST

Hallelujah! What a load of crap. Hardly inspiring. The only one that comes close is the Norway cathedral, but its interior needs tweaking. These modern houses of worship still pale next to the architecture of the past ecclesiastical design. Antoni Gaudi's Sagrada is a fine example of a modernist expression done outrageously well, even if it was a hundred years ago.

And for these, meh. I think i'll stay home and pray.

11th December, 2013 @ 07:04 am PST

Very nice.

One of my favorites is the San Diego LDS temple.

11th December, 2013 @ 08:07 am PST

The roof of The Cathedral of Northern Lights has a rather low pitch for the location. The slope appears to only in the direction of the spiral rather than outwards in all directions. Surprising.

It would be interesting to see a comparison of the cost of the Christchurch Cathedral vs that of an equivalent structure that used ordinary building materials. It appears to be a striking & memorable design at a relatively low cost.

11th December, 2013 @ 11:21 am PST

The Baha'i Temple in New Delhi in India is a remarkable architectural work. A place of meditation and worship for people of all faiths, the temple is in the shape of a lotus. The work was designed by Canadian-Persian architect Farlborz Sahba. Built in 1986. Here is a link to a photo from the Wikimedia Commons.

Aviott John
11th December, 2013 @ 03:09 pm PST
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