Seetharam Vallabhaneni, 2017 (unless otherwise stated)

Opaque. Transparent. Translucent.

Research Paper

Location : Chicago, IL, USA

Studio : Architecture Theory by Hennie Reynders Ph.D

Date : May 2016

Keywords : Sacred, Religious, Culture, Architecture, Inclusive, Permeability

The paper responds to the idea that religious architecture can transcend the boundaries of the religion and act as an open, inclusive space for communities. The paper argues that in the flat world that we are living in, coexistence of different cultures and religions is inevitable and Architecture has a huge role to play in how seamless this coexistence is. The permeability of sacred architecture is explored in terms of its opacity. The paper argues that although we can say that we are a truly global world, the interactions within various communities are not as seamless as they could be and that Architecture has a potentially important role to play in enabling a more diverse and accepting sense of community. It is argued that Houses of Gods still stand as walls between different cultures, even though they exist in the same communities and that these opaque, rigid walls must evolve into translucent, semi-permeable membranes in order for communities to become more inclusive. Taking this one step further the paper also questions the possibility of a single architectural space capable of facilitating different religions and beliefs in the future.

To better understand how inclusive contemporary architecture is, I will be defining projects on basis of their opacities. Opacity for me is both visible and conceptual. It encapsulates all we can see and cannot see. Opaque architecture is the architecture that alienates and overwhelms the outsider. Transparent architecture attempts to solve this by taking this to the other extreme : It removes any representation to any culture, religion or belief system. Translucent architecture attempts to balance the identity achieved by the opaque architecture and the freedom and inclusivity offered by the transparent architecture.

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Seetharam Vallabhaneni