If there is one type of building that has remained relatively static over the years, it’s the sanctuary of the Catholic church. Around the country and around the world, when you arrive at a Catholic church, you can pretty much guess what you are going to see. There are going to be high arches. There are going to be ornamental steeples. The church building is going to take you back in time to a different era. Even if these buildings don’t look like they’ve stepped out of the Middle Ages, they will have a definitively traditional appearance. There are some designers who are looking to change this, though. They’re looking to breathe new life into these buildings while keeping what makes them great.
Catholic church design is changing a bit. Some of the newest churches have a more modern feel, and others are looking more like the neighborhoods in which they sit. Catholic church leaders have contracted design firms that can help the church work on its appearance. While traditionalism is still a major part of what the church is about, buildings can serve to draw in new parishioners. As leaders have figured this out, they have been much more willing to let designers have more free rein to do what they want.
At the core of new church design is a very simple principle. That principle is that a building is supposed to be designed to reflect its purpose. If a building does not fulfill its purpose, then the design is faulty. More and more church leaders are recognizing that utility beats appearance any day. They want buildings that can provide the appropriate sight lines for people in the crowd. They want the acoustics to be proper so that when the people sing, it sounds better than average. These are features that designers are increasingly adding to new churches, making them much different than they have been in the past.
It seems unlikely at this point that the Catholic church is going to change its tastes entirely. Traditional church appearance is still the norm and will likely remain so in the years to come. A few church leaders have stepped out and taken some risks, though, providing designers with the ability to put together projects that reflect a newer and hipper version of the church that has dominated religion for hundreds of years.