At lectures and symposia about Catholic church design in the United States, a noticeable dissonance emerges regarding the elements that today’s architect may use to create sacred space. Some propose to use representational iconography, traditional form, and hierarchy as design elements. Others propose the sculpting of natural light and the abstract, nonrepresentational artistic composition of modern form as the basis of the design. Both enthusiastically embrace the same goal of creating meaningful religious space, but the latter are frustrated by the former’s clinging to outmoded ways of thinking.
Michael Patrick is an Architect at Barnes Vanze Architects in Washington, D.C., leading current and recent projects at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.; Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia; the Church of Our Saviour at Oatlands in Leesburg, Virginia; the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.; and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Columbia, Maryland, among others. He has been a licensed architect since 1996.