This fall marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther is said to have nailed his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg Castle Church on October 31, 1517. The anniversary has been marked around the world with many scholarly symposia and conferences on Protestantism. One such symposium focused on the impact of the Reformation on religious architecture over the past five centuries. The Fifth International Conference on Contemporary Religious Architecture, held in Santiago, Chile, in late August, attracted historians, architects, and scholars from around the world to consider the conference theme: “Protestant Architecture and Modernity: Milestones, Transfers, Prospects.” University of Hartford architecture professor Michael J. Crosbie was invited by the symposium’s organizers to give the conference’s closing address.
The conference was convened at the Univeridad de Santiago de Chile over five days, during which more than 20 paper presentations took place. Crosbie’s closing address to the conference, titled “Defining the Sacred,” considered the ways that religious architecture has changed since the Reformation, and the nature of Protestant sacred space. Crosbie drew upon historical examples in his closing address, and discussed how contemporary religious architecture is changing with the dramatic shifts in religious belief, and what the future might hold for houses of worship.
In addition to paper presentations, the conference conducted tours of historic and contemporary churches in Santiago and Valparaiso, including the recently completed Bahai Temple of South America, which was just honored with a 2017 Innovation Award for Stellar Design by the American Institute of Architects, and the 2017 Innovation in Architecture Award by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. The temple was designed by Canada-based Hariri Pontarini Architects.