2013 International Awards Program for Religious Art & Architecture

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

This year’s awards program seems to verify trends seen in previous years, trends that appear to still be registering the reverberations of the downtown in the construction industry, which is yet climbing out of its slump. The trend over the past year has been an uptick in the number of projects submitted in the renovation and restoration categories. This year, 23 projects were submitted in these categories, attesting to the stamina of this kind of work. It appears that many congregations are choosing to renovate or restore existing facilities rather than build anew. Even in the category of new facilities, many projects were new construction connected to existing buildings. This might be a long-term trend in working for religious clients. It has been reported that donations to religious groups have dropped in recent years while charitable donations to non-religious organizations have grown. Studies have cited declining membership in organized religion as part of the reason; such shortfalls appear to be having an impact on more religious groups opting for renovating existing facilities rather than building new ones.

This year’s awards jury noted that the stronger projects in the submissions were in the remodeling and restoration categories. The jury was particularly impressed with the number of older buildings that had been rescued from complete destruction. Several projects, and a number of award winners, were facilities that had closed or been abandoned. This bodes well for the existing religious building stock.

The 2013 Religious Art and Architecture Awards Jury

The 2013 Religious Art and Architecture Awards Jury, left to right: Frank Harmon (architect); Terry Byrd Eason (liturgical designer); Joan Soranno (architect); Rev. W. Joseph Mann (clergy and jury chair); Fr. John Giuliani (artist).

When asked what new trends stood out among this year’s submissions, the jurors were unanimous in their appreciation for simple, modest projects executed with an impressive level of skill and attention to detail. For example, a former welding shop that was no more than a sheet-metal building was transformed into a Greek Orthodox church with a strong modernist vocabulary. The jurors remarked on the encouraging number of projects that made the most out of slim budgets. Tiny existing houses of worship built of local, indigenous materials were revived as “a gesture of faith,” as one juror described it. Several projects were at the scale of rural churches, providing new environments for long-standing congregations. There was a dearth of “big box” churches submitted, which might reflect recent declines in that genre, as well as the low priority in these buildings regarding quality design.

The number of entrants in the religious arts categories was not robust, with the “ceremonial objects” category drawing no entries. Nonetheless, the jurors were impressed with the number of religious arts entries that addressed such challenging issues as death and transfiguration. This work, noted one juror, “struggles to deal with cosmic realities,” including scientific questions such as life on this planet and perhaps on other worlds. “It was good to see such work,” a juror commented. Stylistically, the jury noted that Modernism seems to be alive and well, with an emphasis on contemporary materials, light, and attention to functional demands of religious spaces.

The jury’s advice to future awards program entrants is to show more context in submissions, including a project’s immediate surroundings and the setting of art installations. And with the increased number of renovation and restoration projects, the jury stressed the need for more information on existing conditions, the “before” aspects of a project.

The 2014 awards program opens for submissions (at faithandformawards.com) on April 1, 2014.


  1. Is it possibile to view the Winnipeg religious art objects?

  2. Great and important captions, but they block the pictures most of the time.

  3. Gemma Rivera says

    Is there a way to minimize the captions so we can see the full pictures? Or is this supposed to be just a peek at the winning architecture so we must purchase the magazine?

  4. Captions greatly distract, and would cause me to avoid this publication, sorry .

  5. agree with todd. you are doing disservice to the art you are trying to praise.

  6. there is a big white blocked out section of pictures w/ typed in name, location, etc. Completely blocks pictures !!!

  7. Were there any student projects awarded honors or merits?

  8. These horrible works are obviously inspired by satan, ugly, debased and devoid of any wonderment – the only thing these anti-love pieces do is demonstrate the appalling state of decay of the souls who created them. May God’s mercy and message of hope find its way to you…you desperately need it.

  9. Fr. John Giuliani is the priest who baptized me and confirmed me as a Roman Catholic. His church is the Benedictine Grange in Redding CT, in a 19th century barn whose white plaster walls and chestnut colored beams satisfy in their simplicity. Of paintings there is one of Mary and Jesus as Native Americans near to the altar. This is one of Fr. John’s paintings. Some years ago in the first decade of the 21st century there was an exhibit of Father John’s sacred paintings at the Yale divinity School. It was most inspiring! Advent season and Easter are the highlights at the Benedictine Grange, and Father John as an artist makes the most of these celebrations.

  10. John Higgins says

    The structures while finely done, often do not appear to have a reverence to our Lord. These winning designs seem cold and devoid of a Holy atitude; I believe you’ve made some mistakes.

  11. These mammoth structures appear profane and devoid of what comprises a congregation or church – meek and humble souls; Jesus preached from the beach, upon grassy plain, a hillside orchard and from rough hewn wood planks that he had been nailed to. But then Jesus, being a carpenter and the Creator, understood that no temple made with hands could contain God – man surely has tried in many of these examples. I didn’t note any baptistries, are these, for some strange reason, hidden from view?


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