The Swiss architect, Mario Botta, who designed Évry Cathedral, spoke about churches and their design in an interview with Judith Dupre:
It’s a bit like theater. The theater is also for those who don’t go to the theater because it’s a place of collective imagination. It’s a place where people go to buy a ticket to Dream. People think, “My city is rich because it has a theater-even if I don’t go to the theater.” A church is a rich addition to a city, even for those who don’t go to church. It becomes a human institution like a library, bank, stadium.
There is so much to appreciate in this statement! Religion and the arts have always been hand-in-glove. Indeed, the function of roles, art, performance and yes, that idea of “collective imagination” are all so spot on and insightful. I also like his willingness to speak to the larger culture that does not “go to church,” suggesting–no, instructing–that a city is enriched by the presence of a church in its midst. Frankly, this is something that percolates in conversations with Monty Hoffman when we talk about the design and construction of our new building, arriving in the Fall of 2018. Charged with the development of the entire Wharf, he is a person who has both an historic regard for and appreciation for the presence of a church (indeed churches) within the matrix of what is being created along the Tidal Basin. Whether or not you attend a church, a church can be a human institution that raises the quotient of humane and intellectual discourse in a community. At least it should and one would hope churches and their architects would aspire to such. We at Riverside certainly do so and our architect, Philip Renfrow of GBR, has melded a rich theological appreciation with a keen modernist/post-modern vocabulary in the sanctuary his team has designed for us.
Arena Stage is a nearby marvel and beautiful landmark in our SW community. It has been and continues to be a place where one “buys a ticket in order to dream a while.” We at Riverside are not so different. We are about to provide a beautiful and evocative space of collective imagination where people enter for a station of rest and peace, to dream of justice and mercy in the light of God’s mercy and love.
~See you Sunday (meanwhile, we are in a middle school auditorium and very grateful to Jefferson and DCPS for allowing us to rent their space where, in an auditorium with a stage, we transform a theater into a church inside a school).