2012 International Awards Program for Religious Art & Architecture

Volume 46, Issue 4 :: Michael J. Crosbie, Ph.D.

The first thing that stands out about this year’s award winners is the number of projects cited in the categories of restoration and renovation. Typically, only a handful of such projects has been awarded. For example, between 2005 and 2011, the average number of restoration/restoration projects awarded was just shy of three. This year, out of a total of 23 projects submitted in these categories, six projects were selected, four in the category of restoration alone. While part of the increase might be attributed to the make-up of the jury, it is likely that more restoration/renovation projects have been completed during a period when new building construction (secular as well as sacred) has been depressed.

While jury members applauded the influx of restoration/renovation projects, they also felt that the documentation of these submissions fell short. Information on existing conditions (not only photos, but also drawings and other explanatory diagrams) was sometimes scant, which made it hard to determine what the project accomplished. Several projects that looked strong on the basis of the finished project did not make it into the final round because of their lack of pre-restoration/renovation documentation. The jury noted that the quality of many of the submissions in these categories was high, and that the number of projects in the 40-to-50-year age-range was both well executed and was increasing. Several jury members commented that this might also be an indication of greater awareness of and interest in sustainability, as the greenest building is one that is already built.

The 2012 Religious Art and Architecture Awards Jury, left to right: Rolf Rohn (liturgical design consultant); Susan Jones (architect); Erling Hope (artist); Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk (architect and jury chair); W. Joseph Mann (clergy).

The 2012 Religious Art and Architecture Awards Jury, left to right: Rolf Rohn (liturgical design consultant); Susan Jones (architect); Erling Hope (artist); Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk (architect and jury chair); W. Joseph Mann (clergy).

Another remarkable development this year was the wealth of submissions in the new “Student Work” category. The awards program recognizes that sacred architecture and art appear to be of growing interest in the schools, and that the next generation of architects and artists should be recognized. A new award category typically might draw only a few submissions (the total number of submissions in the “Sacred Landscape” category was 11 the first year it was introduced in 2005, and the total number of awards was one). This year, of the total of 32 student projects submitted, several characteristics were evident. First, many were built—fully 25 percent of the submissions. And of the six winning student projects, all but one were realized. The jury commented that the level of design/build effort in the student projects was “extraordinary,” and that it revealed the importance of design/build in architectural education. Another distinction was the international flavor of the student submissions. Many of the winning projects were from students outside the US, or were projects constructed outside North America. The jury would welcome more submissions to the awards program from students and faculty of art and architecture.

In reviewing the submissions for “New Facilities,” jury members were encouraged by the sophistication of new technology integration, particularly audio and visual, in the overall design of space. More new projects demand multiple presentation technologies as part of the service, and it appears that designers are becoming more familiar with these requirements and are melding the technology with the building to achieve a seamless worship experience. The jury expressed the hope that more “big box” churches will raise the bar on architectural and artistic quality.

The 2013 awards program opens for submissions (at faithandformawards.com) on April 1, 2013.