The Aydelott Grant
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. 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.
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.” Cover Image by Emma Savoie.
architecture, atmosphere, research, masterplan, commercial, materiality
Margaret Fletcher, Matthew Hall, Carla Keyvanian, Justin Miller
$20,000 Research Travel Grant
The Aydelott Foundation
Major locations visited over the course of fifty-three days, including the routes and the travel types between them.
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 “you just had to be there” sensation. These essays aim to identify some of the architectural qualities, components, and themes in each place which contribute to the atmosphere of sacred space.
All equipment, resources, and travel necessities were fit into a front-and-backpack setup weighing sixty pounds.
The research conducted during the Aydelott Grant went on to fuel multiple subsequent projects.
Sacred space is characterized by its atmosphere. Sacred is defined by Merriam Webster as “entitled to reverence and respect.” 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?
Vignettes possessing sacred qualities from the Kolumba Museum and Grundtvig's Church.
At the time of this research, most buildings have a limited capacity to engage their occupants beyond their base program and function. Our expectations can shape our experience, particularly when they are defied. Buildings have the potential to stir emotion, heighten awareness, and become immersive experiences. What people contribute to these places is an essential part of atmosphere. These qualities are also a function of factors beyond human control. I want to design architecture that moves its occupants. My experience through Aydelott has inspired me to continue to delve into how architecture can shape atmosphere.
Peter Zumthor, Atmospheres: Architectural Environments - Surrounding Objects, Basel: Birkhäuser (2006), 11.
Philip Babcock Gove (ed), “atmosphere,” in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged. Cambridge: G. & C. Merriam Co. (1968).
Bernard S. Cayne and Lexicon Publications, “atmosphere,” in The New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary Of The English Language, New York: Lexicon Publications Inc. (1988).