2017 International Awards Program for Religious Art & Architecture

Volume 49, Issue 4 :: Michael J. Crosbie, Ph.D., FAIA


A total of 27 projects representing the best in religious art and architecture were selected from a field of approximately 120 submissions. This year saw nine submissions in the category of “Adaptive Re-Use/Re-Purpose,” which was instituted two years ago to recognize the growing trend in sacred architecture to adapt existing facilities, or to transform secular buildings into religious facilities. Members of the jury remarked on how this category seems to be yielding some of the best work they’ve seen. Pointing out the continuing shrinkage of mainline Protestant congregations, jurors speculated that churches are more focused on getting the most out of their existing spaces, in some cases changing the function of these spaces to serve new, more community-oriented needs.

2017 Jury

The 2017 Faith & Form/IFRAA Religious Art and Architecture Awards Jury, left to right: Fr. Gilbert Sunghera, SJ (liturgical design consultant); David Roccosalva (artist and jury chair); Carolyn Peterson (architect); Rev. W. Joseph Mann (clergy); Thomas Barrie (architect).

In fact, the jurors detected a strong expression of community-based sacred space—not only for worship and ritual, but also for serving the needs of the surrounding community through outreach. This often manifests itself in less “formal” spaces, as the jury described them, facilities with spiritual spaces were intertwined with more secular uses. Congregations are thinking harder about smaller, adaptive urban spaces. As one juror described it, “There seems to be more emphasis on what the role of the community is, and the sharing of liturgical space, and that is a breath of fresh air.”

A related aspect of many of the award-winning projects is their creativity in solving complex problems with not a wealth of means, often due to the fact that budgets are tight. Several of the projects “took nothing and made it into something,” several jurors explained. Many of these projects documented meager construction costs with an air of pride. Jury members were also impressed with simplicity in design, which they interpreted as part of a growing social value of voluntary simplicity in lifestyle—de-cluttering consumer-oriented lives. This was seen in many of the international submissions, which seem to be growing in number each year. These international projects are almost exclusively designed with a modernist sensibility at a variety of scales. The range of submissions that explored a traditional design idiom seemed narrower, although one is represented among the winners in this issue.

The 2018 awards program opens for submissions (at faithandformawards.com) on April 1, 2018.