The Last Word

In each issue, The Last Word features the views of a guest columnist.

Landscape as Poetic and Sacred Architecture

Maybe seeing the Plains is like seeing an icon: what seems stern and almost empty is merely open, a door into some simple and holy state. Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography Eons ago, a retreating glacial blade gouged a region through … [Continue]

Everything Old is…Old Again

We are a nostalgic people, in part because the past can be known, judged, and the “good parts” can be repeated. There is little risk in replicating from the past what today is deemed “traditional.” Tradition is comfortable. We can snuggle down in it. … [Continue]

Sacred Dirt

Imagine, for a moment, a forest, perhaps a redwood grove, with sunlight slanting through the trees. If you have ever stood among the redwoods, it is hard not to feel a sense of the holy, what the theologian Rudolf Otto described as the “numinous.” In … [Continue]

Library of Souls

Louis Kahn was late for his lecture. The U.C. Berkeley student center ballroom was packed with people eager to hear the great man that spring evening in 1968. But nearly an hour past his scheduled appearance…still no Louis. Where was he? Speaking … [Continue]

What’s Past is Prologue?

Shakespeare used it. John Toynbee used it. It’s engraved on the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. “What is Past is Prologue” is a phrase that commonly refers to the influence history has on creating a context for understanding and maybe … [Continue]

Discovering Gaudi on a Rainy Evening

Even after seven hours of flight, it still didn’t feel like we were in Barcelona. Our legs were cramped and butts were sore, but it still felt as if we were in a dream. Our architecture study group got to the hotel and took a couple of hours to … [Continue]

In the Glass

Walking in, I feel cold and separate from the masses of people that fill the church. While everyone talks to one another I walk on unsteady legs around them, trying to find somewhere to sit. I find a spot in the far back near the corner, away from … [Continue]

Drops of Memories

When I look at a masterpiece, I lose myself in it. I take a journey, find an escape, a chance to get away. “If you get lost, you can always be found.” I hear the echoes encircling this magnificent space, as my curious self begins to wander. What is … [Continue]

Take a Seat at the Kids’ Table

Imagine this taking place at your house of worship: A dozen or so creative men and women gather regularly to create art to adorn this place throughout the year. The use of their talents is a spiritual practice that benefits themselves as well as the … [Continue]

On Silence

In beginning the design of a place of worship, many architects value analysis but distrust intuition. They have been taught the Modernist dogma that design is an objective, problem-solving process in which the client’s program of functional … [Continue]