Spirituality and Meaning in the Built Environment

April 15, 2016

In early April, MGA&D was invited to participate in a seminar called  the “Architecture, Culture and Spirituality Forum” or ACS organized by William F. Storrar, the Director for the Center of Theological Inquiry located in Princeton.

The Center of Theological Inquiry (CTI) is an independent research center, pursuing interdisciplinary research in the field of religion though their international visiting scholar program. CTI’s research program is wide ranging. By convening leading thinkers and focusing on where theology impacts global concerns, they are able to share discoveries to change the way people think and behave.

They are currently working on a project on the science and meaning of life, supported by NASA. In recent years they have collaborated on programs at Princeton University, including its Center for the Study of Religion, and Program in Law and Public Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School.


Another research avenue currently being studied is focused on spirituality and meaning in the built environment, and implications for design education and professional practice. MGA&D was invited to provide a lecture on the 50+ year evolution of the firm’s humanistic design philosophy touching architecture, interiors, furniture, and objects to enrich the dialogue and pose questions of how architectural thinking can be used as a vehicle to convey messages unique to a specific location.

Humana Building

Humana Building in Louisville, KY

I selected a range of architectural projects based on their “Genus Loci” or ‘spirit of place’, where the architecture reflected it contextual surroundings, allowing visitors to experience the built environment visually, spatially and emotionally. Projects reviewed included the Humana Building in Louisville, KY; The Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Walt Disney World; the El Gouna Resort in Egypt and the Longsheng Monastery in China. These were projects where we developed designs and details at every scale.

El Gouna

El Gouna Resort in Egypt

Since the forum took place in Princeton, MGA&D hosted the lecture at Michael Graves’ Home, the Warehouse. This was an ideal way to experience Michael’s visionary philosophy first hand. A robust discussion followed the lecture and I would like to thank the participants for sharing their insights with us:

Rebecca Krinke, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Minneapolis
Julio Bermudez, Professor of Architecture, Catholic University, Washington State
Tom Barrie, Professor of Architecture, North Carolina State University
Murray Rae, Professor of Theology, University of Otago, New Zealand (and an architect)
Douglas Duckworth, Professor of Buddhist Philosophy, Temple University, Philadelphia
Dominique Steiler, Professor of Wellbeing at Work, Grenoble Business School, France
William Storrar, Director, Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, NJ