. . .ITS FUNCTION RAISES IMPORTANT MORAL ISSUES. . .
The letter jointly signed by Clare Lasbrey and Ian Robertson (AJ 15.09.05), actually raises more questions in my mind than the writers' own disquiet concerning the relevance of religious (specifically read 'Christian') architecture today.
Whether or not the function of a building can be described as an 'anachronism', for one. What are the 'international events', mysteriously hinted at? If it is true that 'Western culture' (whatever one may believe this is anyway! ), 'is based on a 2,000year-old lie' - why in heaven's name is this 'unfortunate'?
As to the perceived anachronism of a church having a congregation in our post-Christian society, a Biblical reply is - 'where two or three are gathered in my name' - not two or three hundred, thousand, million etc. Any number will make up a congregation. The further question this raises is what is a congregation? A reasonable argument could be made for including casual visitors, sightseers and even the odd lover of architecture as part of an impromptu congregation during a service.
Their final question, however, is relevant, as it does open up a ginormous can, squirming with densely packed and slippery worms. To what extent may we take into account the function of a building when making an architectural assessment? In functional terms only, how far is architecture independent of moral judgements? What to make of a well-designed gas chamber, torture chamber, armaments factory, etc? And whose mores are to be used for this value judgement?
To the penultimate question, I can only answer what one of my mentors used to drum into me - you are a human being first, an architect second.
Thomas Burfitt-Williams, London