Portrait by Emma Savoie.

Sacred Space.

The Aydelott Grant


This research into sacred space 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 was 130 page illustrated essay, multiple presentations, and further personal study, which was included in the author's book Atmosphere. 

Atmosphere is why we visit architecture, why it is not enough to simply read about it, to look at pictures of it, or to draw 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 definition of atmosphere in relation to the field is:

“the pervading sensation of a tone or ambiance in/of a place, space, or object.” 3 Sacred space is characterized by its atmosphere. Sacred is defined by Merriam Webster as “entitled to reverence and respect.”4 Sacred space exists in the natural world, in groves of trees and on mountain peaks, as much as it does in the built environment. Sacred architecture is a designed form of sacred space. It attempts, through intentional, designed conditions, to create an atmosphere that promotes reverence and respect. Often when considering sacred architecture, archetypal images of soaring medieval Christian churches spring unbidden to my mind. The Gothic cathedral looms large in the education of the Western-trained architect. Historically, there has always been a primary purpose behind religious sacred architecture, to inspire visitors to worship and create an atmosphere that encourages a reverent attitude. What about the atmosphere of these places makes them successful sacred spaces? How can the architects of today design places of similar quality?


architecture, atmosphere, research, masterplan, commercial, materiality


Northern Europe


Essay, Exhibition, Photography




Margaret Fletcher, Matthew Hall, Carla Keyvanian, Justin Miller


$20,000 Research Travel Grant


The Aydelott Foundation

Macro and Micro Context

The site is located in the larger metropolitan area containing Auburn, Opelika, and Columbus. Additionally, it is oriented along a major historic and cultural axis along the riverfront. The subdued material palette is locally sourced.

Materials and techniques were implemented which mature over time.


The steel volumes of the studios frame one end of the park, while city mills holds the other edge.


Mystery is prioritized over views to the interior. The skin is pulled back or punctured in a handful of moments to permit daylight.


Mediating Knuckle

The studios project into the river, providing a node around which visitors can gather. The overhang provides protection and the launch engages the river.


A gallery for both creation and art produced in and on the building. A display case for craft and patina.

Music Studio

Pairing acoustic and visual reflection. The pool serves as a privacy barrier between performers and walkers.

Perpendicular and Parallel

The Columbus Riverwalk passes between the studio volumes, above the Chattahoochee River access and below the studio axes. 


Overlapping Axes

The project can be experienced in multiple ways, and each avenue of access permits views of the others.