The Thirteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2011
Berkeley Prize 2011

2011 Introductory Essay by Paul Broches

Paul Broches, FAIA is Principal Mitchell/Giurgola Architects, LLP, New York, U.S.A. He is a Member of the BERKELEY PRIZE Committee and one of this year's PRIZE Jurors.

An Observation on Sacred Space

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The images in this brief photo essay were among observations made during two trips to India in 2007 and 2008. In my travels through Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, I saw remarkable, religious architecture, Hindu and Muslim, imbued with serene and sensual religious content. I did not expect the secular architecture and the urban and rural landscapes also to be deeply rooted in the sacred realm. I wanted to “deconstruct” these places to better understand to what extent it was religious tradition and to what extent it was the force of human commonality that made the space sacred.

As I travelled through Rajasthan and the southern states, I frequently encountered sacred space. It was not necessarily a physical place that I could explain, but when I entered it I knew. I can only reason that it is a state of mind that informs us as it informs the builders, often unknown, who create them.

The sacred and the sublime do not know international borders, religions, cultures. Of course, it is all of these that create the context for sacred space. Once attuned to my understanding – my version - of sacred spaces, I discovered them in random places: at the water’s edge, in the marketplace, village square, in the fields, under a tree. Where do we find sacred places in the unique worlds that each of us inhabit? The photographs from India that follow were pulled from my files shortly after a conversation with Ray Lifchez, the Chair of the BERKELEY PRIZE, about the 2010 Competition.

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