June 2012

An aesthetic sensibility for the design of the Unitarian Universalist New Home starts at the very beginning with the harmonious relationship of the building to the land. We want to create beautiful spaces inside and out that invite sacred, spiritual contemplation & appreciation.

The design of the building must adapt to the harsh Central Oregon climate and the strong winds that often blow across the land. There is a fine dance between a structure that offers protection from such elements and one that includes a flowing interaction with nature as much as possible, whether through courtyards, terraces, and atriums. Capturing existing views of the mountains and trees is essential.

Our New Home can be a sacred space through its design, human scale, and materials, rather than by the use of traditional religious symbols and shapes. Though many traditional churches are beautiful, their bell towers, steeples and long naves tend to reflect an orientation toward heaven and a hierarchical form of worship that do not embody the spirit of Unitarian Universalism. The sanctuary should speak more toward our culture of inclusiveness, where individual faces and voices would be clearly seen and heard, contributing to its sacred quality.

Simple elegance is a guiding principle. The use of clean, flowing lines can delight the eye, and the regular use of vertical and horizontal lines can give a sense of stability. But curves can help connect to the land, provide gentle guiding and flow, and be warm and soothing, even in such minor details as a subtle curve over a doorway.

Natural light is important, with the quality varying from warm sunlight that energizes to a more “painterly” inspiring use of soft light glowing through narrow window slits, half-hidden by partitions, or through tinted or translucent glass.

Excellent acoustics is an important aesthetic consideration, allowing music and the spoken word to support and enhance the spiritual and community experience.

Textures and ranges of values can add interest. Color can reflect the Central Oregon landscape with its subtle greens, browns and grays.  But such a High Desert landscape also has its brilliant colors as is witnessed by blossoming Indian Paintbrush and other wildflowers in the spring. Interior design and all its furnishings can change over time, but simple elegance can still be its guiding design principal.

Comfort and practicality are as important as the aesthetics. Part of the goal of building our New Home is to keep future generations in mind as we build. Essentially, the aesthetics play a major role in saying to our members and visitors:

Welcome! Be at peace, be inspired. Gain calm and strength here.
Put values into action. Connect with our community and the greater community.
This is your Home.