Volume 47, Issue 4 :: Michael J. Crosbie, Ph.D.
Nothing impressed the 2014 awards jury (which met last July to review 134 submissions) as much as the sheer diversity of the submissions across the categories, and the overall high quality of the work. The outstanding excellence of projects put forward for awards made the jury’s work challenging, and it resulted in one of the highest number of winners in recent memory—a total of 32 awards were bestowed this year, as compared with 19 winners last year. This jury also decided to rename the two award categories. In the past, juries have given Honor Awards to projects deemed at the highest level of accomplishment. On these projects the jury’s decision was essentially unanimous; where there was a split vote, winning projects were given Merit Awards. This year’s jury expunged the word “merit” and simply assigned the designation “award.” The jury felt that the word “merit” connoted a level of inferiority, which was not in line with the overall superiority of the submissions across the board. We thank the jury for its discretion and word-smithing.
To what did the jury attribute the superb level of submissions this year? Jury members agreed that religious art and architecture are flourishing throughout the world, and that artists, architects, liturgical designers, students, and others are exploring ways to balance tradition with new demands of religious practice. The landscape of sacred space is changing, along with dramatic shifts in organized religion. And while those seismic events are greatest among the world’s more traditional and established religions, the jury noted that the award winners, and many who made submissions to the awards program, have chosen not to be identified by just their traditions—a choice that the jury celebrated as courageous, creative, and vital if traditional faith communities are to survive. “They are willing to explore other avenues in those traditions,” one juror commented, “to reinvent them, to start new traditions, perhaps.”
Another aspect of this year’s submissions that impressed the jury was the level of sophistication at radical extremes of size and scale. The jury found brilliant work at polar opposites, in small places and large, from a humble building in rural Thailand designed and built for about a dozen kids, to a gargantuan megachurch in a Texas suburb for thousands of worshippers. Jury members agreed that great art and excellent design always have the potential to serve very small and very large constituencies in the wealth of the world’s faith traditions. They were struck by the juxtaposition of modesty and luxury, shoestring budgets and expensive projects, a spectrum across which distinction is attained. “From tiny to large projects,” one juror commented, “people are achieving excellence.”
And they are achieving it around the globe. The jury came away from its two days of submission reviews and deliberations impressed with how truly international the awards program is, with broad representation of faith communities around the world, submitted by artists, designers, architects, and students from different backgrounds and cultures. This bodes well for the future of art and architecture for the spirit—changing drastically, yes, but alive and well.
The 2015 awards program opens for submissions (at faithandformawards.com) on April 1, 2015.