2019 International Awards Program for Religious Art & Architecture

Volume 52, Issue 4 :: Michael J. Crosbie, Ph.D., FAIA

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There were more than 100 submissions to this year’s awards program; remarkably many of them from abroad. As you will see in the pages that follow, a substantial number of the winners are from outside the US—a total of 9 winning projects out of the 29 winners—nearly a third of those elevated. Five projects were recognized for honor awards, and all but one of these winners is from abroad. This indicates that the awards program has truly become international, raising the profile of religious architecture and art globally. The program remains one of the best indicators of what is happening in the field of sacred environments around the world.

2019 Jury

The 2019 Faith & Form/ID Religious Art and Architecture Awards Jury, left to right: The Reverend Gilbert Ostdiek (clergy); Annie Dixon (liturgical designer); Kathleen Lane (architect and jury chair); Scott Parsons (artist); James Theimer (architect).

This year’s awards jury remarked that some of the best projects reviewed and selected for recognition were very modest in scale and budget, proving that good things can come in small packages and that meager financial resources do not necessarily inhibit creativity in design. The jury was also impressed by the sensitivity shown in many of the submissions to the local cultural, historical, and social context. Several of the works engaged vernacular architectural traditions to create fresh, new interpretations (such as the only Unbuilt Work winner, which reconsidered Russian Orthodox Church architecture). As the jurors noted of this trend, “The International Style is dead.”

The jury members as well lauded inventiveness in the use of evolving technologies and building systems in trying to stem the impacts of global warming, but expressed concern that this approach needs to be more vigorous. For the second year in a row, the jury members were concerned about the low number of Religious Art entries—11 were submitted (the same number as last year) and only two were selected for awards.

The jury members detected a surprising trend in several of the submissions and winning projects for subterranean options in creating sacred space. While the history of religious architecture has accentuated the vertical by rising to the heavens, this year a number of works buried themselves into the earth, integrated deeply into the site. They were also encouraged by the number of entries and winners that had a strong commitment to serving their local communities with non-sacred spaces as social resources, and new kinds of worship environments—such as the “dinner church” winning entry.

The 2020 awards program opens for submissions (at faithandformawards.com) on April 1, 2020.

Michael J. Crosbie is the Editor-in-Chief of Faith & Form and can be reached by email at mcrosbie@faithandform.com

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