What’s the role of religion nowadays?
In an increasingly stressful and individualistic world, worship places around the world are doing their best at providing peaceful spaces where a community of people can thrive together, as a group. One might think that such a building typology is declining. On the contrary, investment from several institutions (government, royalty and private funds as we shall see) are funding these constructions that are striving for light, comfort and sustainability.
These recent examples cover all faiths and geographies across the world. Compare for yourself their form and function and reach some interesting conclusions. We need inspiring and quiet places that make us reflect upon ourselves and society.
Designing such mystical atmospheres comes with constraints: budget, location and number of users. In this aspect, they are just like any other architecture project, but expectations are always high. Churches, mosques, shrines and temples have a very specific purpose and needs to be met.
This is a list of some of the most recent and interesting religious constructions of the past decade. Are these places inspiring to you? Have you already visited any of these?
Let me know in the comments 🕊
Don’t miss Modern Religious Architecture (2001-2012)
1. Parish Church of Santa Monica
Architect: Vicens + Ramos
Location: Madrid (Spain)
Description: I finally visited this delightful and modern-looking church in February with my friend Philipp, and it didn’t disappoint. The complex is made up of two independent buildings: one houses the church, strictly speaking, and the daily chapel, in a structure with large steel porticos, while a second block with a structure of reinforced concrete accomodates the housing and parochial rooms. Both are tied together by a continuous corten stell skin which, as a whole, creates a piece that gives an image of great unity and rotundity. Read more here.
2. Ribbon Chapel
Architect: Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP
Location: Hiroshima (Japan)
Description: The church’s site is midway on a hill enjoying a panoramic view of the Inland Sea of Japan. What is really interesting about this building – especially in a country where Shinto in the official religion – is that it was specifically built for weddings. This means that it had to be as photogenic as possible. The main feature: two interwinding staircases. By joining two spiral stairways one structure supports the other, producing a free-standing structure, and a hot photographic spot. Read more here.
3. Basuna Mosque
Architect: Dar Arafa Architecture
Location: Basuna (Egypt)
Description: Located in the hot and arid village of Basuna, the site is amidst a noisy, dusty and densely constructed area with encroaching residential buildings, a cemetery, cattle frequently moving back and forth on the road and a weekly makeshift small market right outside the main entrance. The new building, in contrast, offers peace and tranquillity for its users. The entrance dome references the historical dome of the Cordoba Grand Mosque. It serves as a reminder of the rich potential of historical architecture in both the architectural discourse and construction innovations. Read more here.
4. Wat Ananda Metyarama Thai Buddhist Temple
Architect: Dar Arafa Architecture
Location: Singapore (Singapore)
Description: Wat Ananda Metyarama Thai Buddhist Temple is the oldest and only Thai Buddhist Temple in Singapore that receives royal patronage from the Thai Royal Family . With its long monastic tradition of ordaining monks, the temple celebrated its 90th anniversary by expanding its current facilities by adding a new block next to its existing historic Main Shrine. Read more here.
5. Våler Church
Architect: sivilarkitet espen surnevik as
Location: Våler (Norway)
Description: Våler Kirke replaces the village’s historic wooden kirke – or church – that was completely destroyed by a fire in 2009. The design reinterpretes the medieval typology of the ‘Stavkirke’ – a vernacular church type with a ‘stacked’ appareance in timber contruction. The most important element is the work with daylight coming into the church from different daylight openings. This symbolizes hope, and that light defies darkness, after the tragic loss of the old church. Read more here.
6. Waterside Buddist Shrine
Location: Tangshan (China)
Description: This is peaceful Buddhist temple is a place for mediation, thinking and contemplation. Located in a forest by the riverside, the main design started from the connection between the building and nature. It respected existing trees, embraced the views and sunk a bit to the ground becoming part of the environment. Five separated and continuous spaces are created within the building by two axis, determined by the existing trees. Read more here.
7. Gulshan Society Mosque
Architect: Kashef Chowdhury – URBANA
Location: Dhaka (Bangladesh)
Description: This atypical mosque was the result of a small allocated space for a large congregation. This led the mosque shape into a vertically stacked volume. Planned for 2500, the building is presently attended by up to 4500 people for the weekly Friday prayer. Because of the limited size of the plot the design is very pragmatic. The entrance, for example, is immediate: a flight of steps from the sidewalk directly leads to the main vestibule and prayer hall. All floors are accessible by generous stairs and elevators, taking visitors to six upper levels. Read more here.
8. New Bund District Church
Architect: Ábalos + Sentkiewicz
Location: Shanghai (China)
Description: The unique location of this church (at the entrance of the new urban development) makes the project the natural gateway to the international residential area of the New Bund. The configuration of the project segregates the secular and religious functions through a covered passage that emphasizes access to the temple and enables the necessary ventilation of the interior spaces. Read more here.
9. Amir Shakib Arslan Mosque
Architect: L.E.FT Architects
Location: Moukhtara (Lebanon)
Description: This small mosque of 100m2 included a renovation of an existing masonry cross-vaulted space and the addition of a minaret, grafted onto the existing structure as a symbolic landmark, next to the 18th century old palace. A new civic plaza was created in what was before an adjoining parking space, turning the frontage of the mosque into a public square with seating, water fountain, ablution space and shading under a newly planted fig tree. Read more here.
10. Bahá’í Temple Chile
Architect: Hariri Pontarini Architects
Location: Santiago de Chile (Chile)
Description: Surrounded by reflecting pools and a landscape of native grasses, the Bahá’í Temple of South America is a domed, luminous structure that echoes the rolling topography of the Andes while appearing to oat some 30 metres above the earth. Its nine monumental glass veils frame an open and accessible worship space where up to 600 visitors can be accommodated. Read more here.