The future is a design problem.  [William McDonough]

“Son of man, describe the temple … its arrangement, its exits and entrances — its whole design and all its regulations and laws … ”.  [Ezekiel 43:10]

Recently, within the timespan of a week, I visited 3 very different spaces. These were

  • Wednesday :  A microsoft vista product launch.
  • Friday midday: A mosque.
  • Sunday morning: An evangelical church.

The connections, and disconnects between them said something to me. I have offered similar thoughts before in space, worship praxis and ideas of temple, and this extends thereon.

The Launch demonstrated all the trappings of an advanced marketing plan. Besides the lecture rooms, there was a convocation space which included fully equipped coffee stall, technical kiosks, sleek hostesses, video projections, a DJ/automatron pumping out lo-volume grooves, an information desk, games consoles, semi-stylish food. The message was clear – We are more than software, we are lifestyle. And it’s a cool lifestyle, if you use our product.

The Mosque had the feel of people who knew what they were there for. A certain tranquility prevailed aided by the sound of running water from the cleansing baths, and soft, diffuse light. This helped mitigate the cheap carpeting and fittings. The smell of summer socks wafted through the predominantly male congregants. I was greeted openly but tersely by those seated next to me. For some time I stared at Arabic inscriptions on the walls. I learned how to bow, stand, sit, and for a short time felt a part of something larger than me.

The Church was a carpeted hanger-like hall, well organised and planned with numeric expansion in mind. Technically it was somewhere between the Product launch and the Mosque, with projectors and a very large ceiling-mounted PA system, which I found imposing. People were relatively engaging, smiling profusely and at times making me feel welcome. The sermon and singing, casual and proficiant, brought no surprises.

An awareness of space. A variety of spaces, all tinged with desire in some way or other. What space would I choose? Which elements of the above might go into the ideal?

I got to thinking and came up with a list of indoor environments from which I might design the most appropriate space in which to house the Sacred.

  • Coffee lounge/Pub – Friends, acquaintances or strangers converse casually in public while snacking or drinking.
  • Dance floor – Tribal energy of the moment, a recreational and immersive experience where communication is physical and mostly non-verbal.
  • Chill room – This immersive environment allows for reflection usually after the intensity of dance.
  • Gallery/installation – A contemplative, yet public space allowing for engagement with the mysteries of the artists imagination.
  • Home – A “good” home is private and intimate, including sleeping eating and relaxing without agenda or expectation.
  • Official Sacred – The church, temple, or meeting hall forms a structure, an escape from the world, wherein people expect to engage with the sacred in some way very different to any other.
  • Industrial/functional – Such spaces are about work and cater for efficiency – desks, computers, technology.