20101007

Musing: Architects as listening community

“In Jesus’ name, amen.” We all close our prayers with that. However, how often do we left Jesus out in the bulk of our prayer until the very end? How often do we begin our prayers with a list of request, follow by more requests, and just reiterate “In Jesus’ name, amen” like we always do to close it off. In Praying Backwards, author and president of Covenant Theological Seminary urges us “to use that routine phrase as the premise and basis for prayer,” rather than stamping God’s name at the end to seal the deal.

For architects, our list (and the clients’) of requests is replaced with programs and budgets. Perhaps it would be more feasible for clients (in our case, churches) to come to us with just a budget and a list of programs, do away with BlueSky and charette and dive right into the solution. But without first listening to God and without God’s vision as our premise and basis of our design, what we are responding to are just needs.

In Who’s your city, author Richard Florida named a list of things for readers to consider while choosing a place to live. Against the all-places-are-equal-with-globalization mentality, he argues that the physical entity of place is still important. While he identifies that different place offers different climate, environment, job opportunities, culture, and so on, he fails to see a greater significance of place which only comes from God. In the Old Testament, the patriarch like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sojourned from land to land, places to places. Wherever and whenever God spoke to them, they would make memorials and alters to commemorate the event and gave the place a name in connection to what took place. Like Bethel, which means “house of God.” These places were significant because God had made it meaningful. By the same token, Churches and Christians could be called to a place which has zero appeal in other circumstance.

Without a doubt programming and budgets are critical paths to any project, but architects and designers need to be a listening community which prioritize the voice of God in order to deliver designs beyond functionality but meaning and significance. Listen first, draw second.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. -Isaiah 55:9

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