Architectural Ecumenicism: Qualities and Quantities (2)

IMG_9110On an unseasonably warm Friday afternoon this past February, we hosted the inaugural conversation of this year’s colloquium series. We were pleased to engage in dialogue with Fr. Gilbert Sunghera, an architectural theologian who has served as a consultant on ecclesiastical architecture nationwide. Fr Sunghera directs the Liturgical Space Consulting Service, a non-profit firm based at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture—or to use more architectural terms, he is the principal of an architectural consulting practice focused on contemporary liturgical space which counts upward of 50 clients. In this role, he essentially brings a professional background in both Architectural Design and Liturgy to assist congregations in planning for the future. In addition to consulting on projects for the Jesuits during his priestly formation, Fr. Sunghera is widely and diversely credentialed, being at once a professional (that is, an architect), and a priest, a scholar, and a civic agent. In terms of education, he completed his undergraduate studies at UC Irvine examining how people and the built environment affect one another. He then completed an MArch from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. After working for three years as a designer in Los Angeles primarily with non-profit groups, he joined the Jesuits, eventually earning a Master of Divinity and becoming an ordained priest. Nonetheless, he continued his study of the relationship between religion and architecture at Yale University, earning a Master of Sacred Theology. At a time in which spirituality is construed as an intensely private experience, religious architecture is amongst the few vestiges of empathic, accessible, and often interior, public space. In his work as a consultant and educator, Fr. Sunghera explores the role of intellectual pursuits as a perennial driving force in the shaping of public space. The conversation proved to be a welcome opportunity to engage a scholar whose career embodies a passion for both architecture and social justice, excerpts of which can be found below:

– How can architecture enhance the spiritual experience?

– In what ways do architects and theologians differ in their understanding of space and the sacred experience?

– What challenges arise when designing a sacred space with sustainability in mind?

– Is economy a defining factor in the design and construction of sacred spaces?

Curators: Alaa Algargoosh, Bader Albader, Deokoh Woo.

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