Friday, April 26, 2013

The "Importance of Aesthetics"

One of the many things the Environics report is giving me to think about is that in our part of the city the second highest social value is "Importance of Aesthetics" (second only to "Consumptivity." (A word I've never heard before, which will have to wait for its own post). This ties to a nagging issue that has bothered me for many years--the interior of our church.

Our building was gutted by a fire which also destroyed the parish hall next door. I understand that the architects were trying to solve a complex problem--fitting the the functions of two buildings into one. I think they did an admirable job, but one of the trade-offs was a space with a lot of "noise." For example, the square north-south lines of the floor tiles clash with the radial arches of the ceiling lights. The space between the magnificent stained glass window and the chancel area is visually "messy," and yet resides at one of the most natural resting places for the eye. The columns in the room are two completely different styles (some are ornate clement and the others are plain columns). As one architect put it to me, "The place lacks a central conviction about worship." Precisely so, in solving the practical problems the architects abandoned the effort to say anything about worship, God, or church. Or, more accurately, they a few things, but in a confused and unorganized way.

Most visitors don't mind, but a few do. I've certainly seen people walk into our church, see that it doesn't "look like a church," and walk out again. And the parishioners like the quirky but straightforward character of it, but like some of my predecessors I dream of "fixing" it. Interestingly, a blogger who reviewed our church said the interior was one of the "low lights" of his visit. Sigh.

In my years here I have collected a variety of opinions about how to do that. Some have been brilliant, others seem to try to recreate a past that was destroyed by the fire in 1976. Cost is obviously a factor in any plan, but some of the ideas have involved nothing more expensive than paint, which certainly seems do-able.

So now that we know that the people around us care about Aesthetics, how to respond? What sort of architectural expression will mediate the Gospel to such folks? Hmmm.

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