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Sacred Space


The annual $20,000 Aydelott Travel Grant enables the recipient to travel the world to research a topic of their choice through the lens of any four buildings they select. As the Auburn winner of the 2019 award, I chose to research the atmosphere of sacred space. Sacred space serves as an archetypal reference point for atmosphere in architecture. The selected buildings were the Cologne Cathedral, The Pilgrimage Church in Neviges, Saint Peter in Klippan, and Grundtvig’s Church in Copenhagen. The research took place throughout 2019, with the travel portion occurring during the summer,  and was documented using photography, sketches, and written journals. The final form of the research consisted of four thirty-five-page fully-illustrated essays, summarized below, an exhibition, and further personal study, which was included in my book Atmosphere. Cover image by Emma Savoie.


Aydelott Travel Grant Research


Northern Europe




Margaret Fletcher  ·  Matthew Hall


Research Grant  ·  Illustrated Essays

The Aydelott Foundation


Full Text


Aydelott Travel Grant  ·  $20,000


Major locations visited over the course of fifty-three days, including the routes and the travel types between them.



Atmosphere is why we visit architecture, why it is not enough to simply read about it, to look at pictures of it, or to represent it. There is precise terminology in architecture used to quantify function, scale, mathematical ratios, and time. There is a decidedly less specific vocabulary for softer qualities, such as color, tone, and materiality. These are described by terms such as hard and soft, cool and warm. 


Ultimately, what draws us to architecture are not the parts we can represent but rather the parts we cannot. The parts which lead us to tell others that “you just had to have been there.” The following essays aim to identify some of the architectural qualities, components, and themes in each place which contribute to the atmosphere of sacred space.

Study Selection


The following research deconstructs four separate cases of atmosphere in sacred architecture. As Western-Christian sacred architecture has featured prominently in my personal education and experience, I chose to look at four buildings in that tradition. These are the Cologne Cathedral, in Cologne, Germany; the Neviges-Mariendom in Velbert-Neviges, Germany; Sankt Petri in Klippan, Sweden; and Grundtvig’s Church in Copenhagen, Denmark. These spaces differ drastically in their attitude towards the implementation of light, acoustics, space, and texture. They are however unified in their attempts to produce an atmosphere which is appropriate for sacred architecture. Atmosphere is unpredictable, but it can be purposefully influenced. The elements which compose it are used differently in each of the buildings studied. Yet all of these buildings create that sensation of awe and reverence.