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Building Faith: 10 Catholic Churches Designed to Uplift and Inspire

As landmarks within their contexts, places of worship are formed around reflection, contemplation and gathering. Few works of architecture hold greater weight.

Eric Baldwin Eric Baldwin

Few works of architecture hold greater weight than places of worship. As landmarks within their contexts, each space is formed around reflection, contemplation and gathering. Designed around symbolism, these buildings draw powerful connections between surface and light, volume and material. Most importantly, worship spaces center on experience. Haptic relationships and spatial sequences combine to create rituals and traditions.

Religious architecture exists across environmental, economic and cultural boundaries. The following collection explores modern Catholicism and contemporary church projects. Moving beyond historic cathedrals and traditional catholic designs, each building utilizes detailing and fenestration to shape experience. Expressing faith both formally and spatially, the projects begin to illustrate how new places of worship can uplift and inspire.

Catholic Suzuka Church by Alphaville, Suzuka, Japan

Located in the Mie Prefecture, this church includes worship space, residences and a conference area. Serving a multinational Catholic demographic, the church features a rippling roof form made to recall the area’s surrounding mountain ranges.

Qichun Catholic Church by Leekostudio, Qichun Xian, Huanggang Shi, China

Formed between mountains on the peninsular of a lake, this project is located in the remote Hongshitou Village. Made with a closed oval, double-walled sanctuary, the design focuses dormitories, meeting rooms and living quarters out towards views of the lake landscape.

St. Mary of the Angels Chapelby Mecanoo, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Designed to recreate an intimate atmosphere, this chapel in St. Laurentius cemetery features a continuous, undulating blue wall. Inside, torch-like lamps illuminate a gold ceiling and circular sections of inlaid stone help to create a space of reflection and contemplation.

Chapel of St. Ignatius by Steven Holl Architects, Seattle, Wash., United States

The Chapel of St. Ignatius was created as a Jesuit worship space at Seattle University. Conceptually, seven bottles of light are held together within a stone box, each containing a colored lens and a unique reflected color. The volumes correspond to the different parts of Jesuit Catholic worship.

Church and Parish Center Santa Maria Assumpta by Gimeno Guitart, Tarragona, Spain

Located in the urban fabric of Bonavista neighborhood, this church and parish center stands as a monument and collective space within the city. As a place for praying, the project sought to convey a sense of transcendence through the exploration of universal values.

St. Thomas More Catholic Church by Renzo Zecchetto Architects, Oceanside, Calif., United States

Made as a space for over 1,100 people, the St. Thomas More Catholic Church includes support spaces, an administration building and a daily chapel. Formally, solid volumes combine with staggered wall clerestories, gardens and courts.

Wanaka Catholic Church by Condon Scott Architects, Wanaka, New Zealand

Located in Wanaka, this Catholic Church is surrounded by a mountainous landscape and incredible views. Bands of clerestory windows combine with an open plan to make the sanctuary and its roof feel light, warm and airy.

St. Martha Catholic Church by Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, La., United States

Sited in Harvey, Louisiana, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple’s catholic church was designed to engage the landscape and connect with nature. Celebrating both the Church entry and its day chapel, a tower element was used to anchor the project and act as a campanile.

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects, London, United Kingdom

Church of St Cyril of Turau and All the Patron Saints is the first wooden church built in London since the Great Fire. Sited on the grounds of Marian House, the project takes cues from the rural churches of Belarus to provide a space that’s inviting and reflective.

Inbo Catholic Church by Archigroup MA, Ulsan, South Korea

Surrounded by mountains, the Inbo Church includes a priest’s room, serve facilities, an office and worship space. Designed to keep in harmony with the rural town, the project was made with segmented volumes and a steep roof that acts a symbolic center for the village.