The sacred in architecture: a study of the presence and quality of place-making patterns in sacred and secular buildings.
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The purpose of this research is to expand knowledge regarding the presence and quality of expression of certain place-making patterns that contribute to place being experienced as sacred. The results are intended to validate and make available an assessment method based on pattern presence and pattern quality for determining whether a specific built environment is more likely to be experienced as sacred or secular. In addition, the results are intended to provide architects with research-informed design guidelines for sacred place-making. This research explores the difference in the presence and quality of expression of certain placemaking patterns at two selected sacred and secular buildings, i.e., Rothko Chapel and Contemporary Arts Museum, both in Houston, Texas. Two key literature references were used as a basis for identifying place-making patterns used in this research: 1) Sacred Place: The Presence of Archetypal Patterns in Place Creation, authored by Phillip Tabb in 1996; and 2) Using the Place-Creation Myth to Develop Design Guidelines for Sacred Space, authored by Michael Brill in 1985. Three types of data were collected and analyzed: graphical data, questionnaire data, and focus group discussion data. Graphical data included photographs and sketches with field notes. A total of forty-eight (48) questionnaires (24 at each setting) were administered to twenty-four (24) Houston architects at the selected buildings. The focus group discussion panel consisted of 6 participants – three architects and three spiritual mentors from Houston, Texas. Relative frequencies were calculated for multiplechoice answers in the questionnaire, while open ended questionnaire items were subjected to inductive content analysis. Focus group discussion data was examined and coded by means of open coding, axial coding, and selective coding. The analyzed data were synthesized to test whether the presence and quality of expression of certain place-making patterns contributed to place being experienced as sacred. This study concludes that built environments which possess a higher presence and higher quality of expression of certain place-making patterns are more likely to be experienced as sacred than built environments with a lower presence and lower quality of expression of the place-making patterns. A set of design guidelines for sacred place-making were produced and a place-making pattern matrix was developed as part of this study.
Rodrigues, Arsenio Timotio (2008). The sacred in architecture: a study of the presence and quality of place-making patterns in sacred and secular buildings.. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from