Between Concept and Identity
The identity of places of worship is one of the most difficult problems faced by religious architecture at the start of this new millennium. Contemporary globalising experiences demand, peremptorily, a reflection, both conceptual and situational, on the origin of objects, people and institutions.
Nevertheless, the chance of these migration flows annihilating already-existing religious identities is perceived as a problem. This problem is directly linked to the survival of architecture as a system carrying a material representation of the divine and constituting a self-reference system for the community of believers.
Therefore, it is important to define the extent to which the new religious architecture has given room to an abstract type of formal experimentation which is disconnected from social reality. Does this architecture maintain its bridging, sacramental value, or, on the contrary, has it given way to the conceptualist trends still alive in the artistic world? Is metaphor a valid concept for the Christian religion? Is there an essential aspect linking this architecture to the centuries-old tradition of the Catholic Church?
Different architectural, pedagogical, exhibition and formal initiatives have arisen in recent years and it is necessary to get to know them, with the purpose of understanding where contemporary religious architecture is heading in its eternal search for a permanent identity.
Esteban Fernández-Cobián, PhD, is an architect and Associate Professor at ETSA at the Universidade da Coruña. He is the author of the monographs Arquitecturas de lo sagrado. Memoria y proyecto (2009); El espacio sagrado en la arquitectura española contemporánea (2005); and Fray Coello de Portugal, dominico y arquitecto (2001), as well as numerous journal articles and conference papers. He coordinates the Congresos Internacionales de Arquitectura Religiosa Contemporánea.
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