Understanding Symbols

By: Sarah Angne Alfaro  

The Crystal Cathedral was part of the Reformed Church of America, located in Southern California, started by the late Reverend Robert H. Schuller. This Protestant place of worship thrived for many years, however, after struggling financially, was sold to the Catholic Diocese of Orange and renamed Christ Cathedral. As the two religious groups move through the space and attach stories to the landscape, it is evident that the socially-constructed sacred place embodies the culture it serves and is continuously transformed by the humans it interacts with. Deliberate design moves inserted into the place of worship strived to create a powerful spiritual setting for each religious group. These design decisions create windows to the sacred. The balance of traditional and modern aesthetics afford a place where the social actors can achieve a clearer understanding or connection with the divine. Looking at the thresholds, rituals, symbols, sacramental art, materiality and lighting applications that enhance the spiritual environment used by two religious groups, the findings discuss interreligious coincidences and divergences in order to understand why the social actors, those making decisions between the spiritual and spatial realms, defined and designed the sacred the way they did. This in turn helps to understand how the act of worship is shaped by the architectural design and understand the significance of sacred places in order to better design and manage them, opening the doors for deeper meaning as humans encounter spaces and allow them to, over time, be resourcefully and creatively transformed.

Sacred Space, Symbols, Place Transformation, Crystal Cathedral, Christ Cathedral, Socially-constructed
2019 Special Focus—Universal Religious Symbols: Mutual Influences and Specific Relationships
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Sarah Angne Alfaro

Assistant Professor, Construction Management and Interior Design, Ball State University, United States
United States