Grad students explore, design sacred spaces

Water, a lotus flower and an African funeral mask were just some of the objects architecture graduate students used as inspiration in building their own “Sacred Spaces.”

Fifteen graduate students in a design studio class built their own models of a religious retreat. The models are now on display in the Salt Lake City and County Building.

The sacred spaces were to be sanctuaries where people from all different religions could meet to worship and share their faith.

Students designed their buildings for a specific site in Ogden Canyon in Huntsville, “something out of the city that lets people get away from worldly distractions,” said Anne Mooney, the professor who taught the design class.

For Mooney, one of the purposes of the project was to expose students to a variety of spiritual traditions that were unfamiliar to them.

Students explored a variety of different religions, including Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and American Indian religions.

“Looking at the unfamiliar, you get more innovative,” Mooney said.

Each student focused his or her research on a different religion and selected a sacred artifact from that religion as an inspiration for a preliminary model and, finally, a building.

Student Eric Cook chose to research Taoism and selected water as his sacred artifact.

For him, water was a link to the natural world and the process of change that he found are parts of Taoism.

Cook’s final model is a chapel made out of a semi-clear material that looks like ice melting into water.

Inside the chapel there is no pulpit or alters-“it gets rid of the hierarchy that can come with religion,” Cook said.

Student Dave Abraham focused on the religion of the Dogon tribe of West Africa.

Abraham used a ceremonial funeral mask as his sacred artifact and focused on the idea of transitions. The transition between our world and a spirit world morphed architecturally into the transition of light in and out of his building.

Mooney said that one of the inspirations for this building project was Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson’s initiative for bridging the religious divide.

The designs will be featured through Jan. 21 on the first floor of the Salt Lake City and County Building, 451 S. State Street in Salt Lake City.

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