If you were to design a sacred space, what would it look like? Would it have four walls and a roof, or would it be open to the elements–more like an amphitheater? Would your design welcome strangers or be more intimate and walled to shelter those already within the circle?
The notion of building a place for God to come and commune with his people, and them with each other, is as old as the world itself. And, for this test or how to design a sacred space, there are probably no wrong answers. But consider this solution:
In this delightful TED talk, architect Saimek Hariri focused on luminosity, the movement of light across the space as day progressed, and the glow emitted by the temple to the outside world. He says,
You know, you aspire for beauty, for sensuousness, for atmosphere, the emotional response. That’s the realm of the ineffable and the immeasurable. And that’s what you live for: a chance to try.
Hariri’s task was challenging, and his answer novel:
And the brief was deceptively simple and unique in the annals of religion: a circular room, nine sides, nine entrances, nine paths, allowing you to come to the temple from all directions, nine symbolizing completeness, perfection. No pulpit, no sermons, as there are no clergy in the Bahá’í faith. And in a world which is putting up walls, the design needed to express in form the very opposite. It had to be open, welcoming to people of all faiths, walks of life, backgrounds, or no faith at all; a new form of sacred spacewith no pattern or models to draw from. It was like designing one of the first churches for Christianity or one of the first mosques for Islam.
How do we as created beings hope to craft a building that sufficiently honors the creator? Any such attempt is but a feeble effort to manifest our gratitude and awe at the miracle of creation all around us because, in our core, we remember that we meet our creator wherever we go, wherever we are, and wherever we will ever be.