The Role of Sacred Spaces/ Quaker Meeting House

I wrote this up for my upcoming exhibition The Meeting and thought I should post this to give some insight into the things I have been working with and thinking about. Enjoy.


 “If art matters at all, it will shed light on something more than itself.” (Roger Lipsey, An Art of Our Own: The Spiritual in Twentieth Century Art).

Sacred spaces are spaces of conviction. These spaces command something of the occupant and are an affirmation of belief in the form of architecture. There is a presentness I feel when inside such spaces that rouses a particular kind of silence in me that does not arise in other places. To inhabit these spaces is to move from awe to reflection to contemplation. Such spaces act as calibrating agents for the individual by withdrawing inward and taking time to be still, leaving all distractions and busyness outside. Over time, one develops patience and openness by inhabiting sacred spaces and learns to listen to the silence of both the physical space and that of the inner space. When this happens an active silence emerges as a meditative practice has begun. It is the experience of place that is taken into the studio to cultivate this particular silence. The studio, by extension, becomes a sacred space itself as it carves out a place to cultivate silence from daily, secular life. To continuously return to the studio is to be intentional about the role of such a space and the activity within as contrasted to daily life. It is a site of inquiry and reflection, of confrontation with one’s reason and faith, and of nurture. Inside the studio, one examines one’s life, bringing into view the mysteries which inflame the mind. In this way, it both clarifies and keeps present those allusive occurrences of the sacred which were felt in the sacred space. It’s about learning to see with “eyes of fire”, that is, to see into a sacred domain, the things that are felt but unseen. The most important aspect to the space is the presence of the mind within it.

Quaker Meeting House

Two years ago I became interested in the silent worship practices of those in the Quaker community. It is a practice which brings into focus the “Inner Light” in each individual through contemplative silence. The goal is to cultivate an inner spiritual knowledge while developing a relationship with the "Inner Light", or “Spirit”. If architecture is the physical representation of ideas and beliefs, then the Quaker Meeting House is a place of both austerity and humbleness. Its purpose is to elevate one’s thoughts by causing introspection in a space void of distraction. The space is sparse and poised, offering no more than what is necessary to encourage reverence. White plaster walls and ceilings contrast the lower portion of the space which is covered in medium dark wood. A sense of security is felt when sitting on the wood benches while the mind feels at ease due to seeing primarily white. This physical separation between wood and plaster creates a corresponding separation of body and mind. With the correct afternoon light the space comes alive from a gradual increase of illumination on the walls. This glow diminishes any noticeable separation between walls and ceiling, creating the acute sensation of being consumed in emptiness but also that of being enveloped in light. In this way, the Meeting House is a reminder of how one’s mind should be: quiet, poised, and devoid of unnecessary thoughts to allow the light to come into the mind and fill it. Thus, the use of contemplative silence as a way to cultivate this “Inner Light” is transformative by the relationship of interior building and interior mind.