Can great design be worth its weight in gold? As the archetypal element embodying decadence, gold has been used throughout history as architectural decoration and gilded relief. Both a material and a color, it can be used symbolically or to realize reflective or iconic concepts. Traditionally reserved for large public works or special private projects, gold was rarely used within vernacular settings. Today, gold architecture can be seen across programs and scales, but it still holds strong roots in religious structures and projects made to showcase and surprise.
Balancing sensitive and self-referential approaches, modern religious architecture often includes expressive forms and subtle surface treatments. Exploring contemporary projects, this collection gathers together buildings that incorporate gold into their design. Expressing shared values and spirituality, the projects understand gold as surface, light, envelope and embellishment. Tied to religion through space or association, they reveal novel ideas on building faith.
Featuring goldsmith work from the medieval period of Westphalia, this small project was part of an exhibition of 300 secular and sacral pieces. The pavilion draws attention to the Münster Domplatz (cathedral square) and contains a gold workshop inside.
This small chapel design was made as a column-free space wrapped by a continuous, undulating wall. Created to carefully articulate conditions and qualities of light, the chapel also includes a curving gold-colored roof and bell tower that delineate programs and functions.
As the home for the Central Texas division of Chinmaya Mission, this project was developed on a new eight-acre campus that reinterpreted traditional Indian typologies. Reflecting this modern context, the temple was formed with geometry and traditional mandala-inspired architecture that includes a golden wall that reflects the light from concealed skylights.
Built as a center for education, information and a place to dispute settlements, this mosque provides an area for Muslims to come together for prayer. Gold leaf was used in the design to symbolize endurance, abstract existence and both Kufic calligraphy.
Expanding an original structure of floor slabs and columns, the Icon Museum showcases over 300 Orthodox icons. The interior features gold walls and a Gold Room with a two-floor high screen design.
St. Katharine Drexel Chapel, Xavier University of Louisiana by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, New Orleans, La., United States
Xavier University’s St. Katharine Drexel Chapel was built around a central worship space filled with light. Amplifying daylight, the center congregation hall takes on a golden color through an approach that was meant to create a meditative and intimate atmosphere.
As the final component of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, this chapel serves as a resolution of the cathedral cluster. Defined by a sweeping gold roof, the project was designed to create a sense of visual permeability.
As the renovation and extension of the University’s Victorian Chapel, this design was formed as a small jewel in the heart of campus. A timber-framed structure features a series of roof trusses and a perforated, anodized aluminum panel with a reflective gold finish.