Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Architecture of Faith: A Sermon

The following is a sermon. I am not usually inclined to publish sermons on our blog, but because the jumping off point of the sermon was the architecture of the temple, I couldn't resist. Hopefully, it reads similarly to our essays. The text is Mark 13:1-8.

Architecture has as much to do with religious buildings as any other sort of building. While we might think that architecture is the province of industry or residence, designing skyscrapers and houses, churches also see the need to consult with architects from time to time. They help provide insight on what kind of space engenders worship, how to best use natural light, and how to ensure that Word and Sacrament are at the center of our life together. Indeed, architects are vital cogs in a design wheel that have great influence on where we live, what our neighborhoods look like, how we feel when we’re at work, and of course, how our faith is represented in our houses of worship. 

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Park, not a Neighborhood: the problems and possibilities of the Dallas Arts District

There has been an air of celebration among Dallas civic boosters, local media and even among many of its citizens these past few weeks. The opening of the $350 million AT&T performing arts center marks the culmination of an ambitious vision set forth by city leaders over 30 years ago in the establishment of the country's largest Arts District. Along a once vacant six-block stretch in downtown just north of the city's gleaming commercial skyscrapers, the Dallas Arts District features museums and performance halls designed by the world's most renowned architects, four of which are Pritzker laureates. The two newest additions to the district, the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre by Rem Koolhaas (and his ex-partner Joshua Prince Ramus) and the Bill and Margot Winspear Opera House by Foster and Partners, now join the two year old Booker T. Washington School of the Arts by Allied Works Architects, the six-year old Nasher Sculpture Center by Renzo Piano, the twenty-year old (and still sumptuous) Meyerson Symphony Center by I.M Pei, and finally the Dallas Museum of Art by Edward Larrabee Barnes that opened in 1984. Add to those a new SOM-designed city performance hall building under construction and recently unveiled design for the Perot Museum of Nature and Science (yes, that Perot) by Thom Mayne of Morphosis less than a quarter mile away and you have one of the most elite concentrations of contemporary architecture of any city in the U.S.

While impressive, the city's traditional tendency to enthusiastically embrace big-name architects in the realization of its monumental palaces of culture and business (Pei, SOM & Philip Johnson) reveals all the more what is still missing in downtown: day to day urban life. Lurking in all the media attention about the opening of the opera house and the theatre was the question, "will the completed Arts District finally bring life to downtown, by attracting people to live there and sustain viable neighborhoods?" Will it lead to the rebirth of downtown, a pedestrian oasis in a metroplex built on wide spaces and lots of driving?