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ACSF 3: Third Annual Symposium

June 29 – July 1, 2011

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General Information

The THIRD Architecture. Culture and Spirituality Symposium took place June 29-July 1 (2011) at Serenbe, a 1,000 acre community located under 25 minutes drive from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson
International Airport. Serenbe is an unique place that strives to support authentic living, working, learning and playing in celebration of life’s beauty and sanctity, through its nourishment of connections between people, nature and the arts. Its design provides an explicit structure, spatial order, and context for community, ceremonial events, and a strong sense of belonging. John Graham, one of its residents, puts it this way:

“Serenbe is marked by an extraordinary sense of community. What has contributed to this remains something of a mystery: The founder’s vision, the inculcation to the sacred, and the commitment to the principles of sacred geometry in physical design, have resulted in a strong sense of place that attracts residents sharing a commitment to the land, the environment, and to each other. The formula may not be simple, but the results are obvious to all.”

In short, Serenbe offered symposium attendees a beautiful, peaceful, and inspiring place: exactly the type of environment necessary to consider, share, and speculate about ACS issues.

The Symposium included five sessions covering a variety of topics relevant to architecture and spirituality issues. A closing session discussed what has been presented and considered future directions that ACS may take. As part of the symposium, we had special presentations and activities on Wednesday and Thursday nights. As usual in our meetings, optional meditation was offered each morning and there was some free time for connecting to oneself, other people and the surroundings. NO symposium fees were charged. Attendants only had to cover their room and board expenses. As in the past, the number of attendees was purpusedly kept small (around 30) to secure an atmosphere fostering intimate connection as well as honest and in-depth dialogue.

The Forum for Architecture, Culture and Spirituality is an international scholarly environment established in 2007 to support architectural and interdisciplinary scholarship, research, practice, and education on the significance, experience and meaning of the built environment.

Location, Registation & Cost

We hosted the third ACS Symposium at Serenbe, a new community whose design was based on sacred geometry and is one of the first new examples of agricultural urbanism.

All symposium activities took place at the Hawthorne Meeting Room in Serenbe, located in the heart of the Chattahoochee Hill Country about twenty-five miles from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. We assisted attendees in finding a share-ride. Once in Serenbe, everything was in pedestrian distance and the car was no longer necessary. Cost for a two-night stay at the Inn at Serenbe was $129 per person plus tax for a double occupancy, and $258 plus tax for single occupancy. Many attendees decided to share rooms.

There was NO symposium fees. Attendants only had to cover their room and board expenses (unless they come for the day and/or arrange their accommodations in near-by facilities).

Format & Themes

The Symposium included three open sessions, two focus sessions, two special evening events, and a synthesis session. Optional meditation was offered each morning and there was some free time for connecting to oneself, other people and the surroundings.

Open Sessions

These three sessions provided a forum to present what is currently being studied, discussed, practiced, or taught in the area of architecture, culture and spirituality. The topic for Open Session 1 (moderated by Anat Geva) was “Reflections on ACS”. Open Session 2 (moderated by Dennis Winters) discussed “Expressions of ACS” whereas Open Session 3 (moderated by Rumiko Handa) addressed ACS conditions “Between Quality and Quantity.” For the list of presenters and their papers, click here.

Focus Sessions

In these two sessions, the chair and panel members presented position papers. The chair then led an open discussion among all session attendees. The idea was to provoke substantial and focused discussion and participation.

Synthesis Session

The closing session was an opportunity to summarize and reflect on the conversations, findings, and questions revealed during the symposium. The moderator provided a 5-10 minute summary of his impressions/insights gained over the 2-day meeting; discussion by all followed. Moderator: Tom Barrie.

Special Events

There was an initial guided tour/lecture on Serenbe led by Steve and Marie Nygren (Serenbe’s founders). Later that evening (Wednesday), we had a special event at the labyrinth followed by a presentation entitled “Serenbe and the Serenity of Place” given by Phillip Tabb. The next evening (Thursday) Nader Ardalan delivered a special lecture entitled “Elements of a Transcendent Architectural Quest” addressed to symposium attendees and the Serenbe community at large. A reception followed until late at night.


To download a copy of this year’s Symposium program, click here.


To download a copy of this year’s Symposium participants, click here.

Papers & Works

To view an archive of this year’s papers and works, please click here.

Collected Abstracts of the Third ACS Symposium (June 29-July 1, 2011)
Edited by Julio Bermudez and Phillip Tabb (Symposium Chairs)
Note: all submissions to the symposium underwent peer review by at least 3 readers. Archived 6/4/2011.

Reflections on ACS
1 – Prem Chandavarkar Toward an Aesthetic of Wonder
2 – Dennis Winters Journey to Bodhgaya: Garden of the Enlightenment
3 – Rumiko Handa Sen no Rikyu and the Japanese Aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi: Toward an Architecture That Promotes the User Imagination
4 – Roberto Chiotti Towards a Functional Cosmology: Implications for Re-imagining the Sacred
5 – Normal Crowe Sacred Ruins: When Ordinary Things Become Sacred
The Nature of the Sacred: Looking for Home, Longing for Heaven
1 – A T Mann Sacred Landscapes: The Threshold between Worlds
2 – Bob Hermanson The Contemporary Sublime: Liminal Oscillations
3 – Hyejung Chang Agro-philia -The Enchantment of the Primitive, the Sacred
4 – Margarida Pedroso de Lima and Nuno Martins The relationship between spirituality, architecture and landscape: the case of Walden & Thoreau and Sidharta & Hesse
5 – Paul Tesar Buber on Art (and Architecture) Buber on Art (and Architecture)
Expressions of ACS
1 – M Charles Bernstein The Search for Architecture of Presence
2 – Snežana Litvinović A Space to Die In
3 – Katherine Ambroziak Surrogate Stones: The Development of Nonce Ritual in Odd Fellows Cemetery
4 – Carolyn Prorok Sacralizing the Diasporic Hindu Home: Ritualized Spaces for Life
5 – Karen Mulder Kenosis as Spiritual Content: Transparency versus “Visual Cacophony” on Sacred German Sites
6 – Anat Geva Light, Stone And Mountains: Mario Botta’s Churches In Ticino, Switzerland
Making the Spirit an Earthly Home
1 – Martin Bacich Sanctified space; The Benedictine path, and the new realities of lay catholic communities at work in the world
2 – Nancy Alexander “The Ultimate within the Midst of Life”: A Theory of Women’s Sacred Space
3 – Tom Barrie Sacred Domesticities: The Ontology of Home
4 – James F Williamson A World within a World: The Design of a Campus Interfaith Chapel
Between Quality and Quantity
1 – Julio Bermudez Outcomes of The Architectural Extraordinary: An Empirical Study
2 – Gary Coates Beyond Modernism: “Perfect Abstraction” in Adi Da Samraj’s Orpheus and Linead Suites
3 – Erling Hope Pattern at Play:Material Hymnody and the Orchestration of Liturgical Space
4 – Bo Zhang Why Sustainability Keeps A Distance From Spirituality? The Technicalization Of Environmentalism And The Lost Of Ideology
5 – Mark L. Johnson Green Infrastructure and the Spirit of Place
6 – Dennis Paoletti What’s so special (Acoustically) about a Cathedral?


All the participants of ACS 3 at Serenbe, in one wonderful picture!

Organizing Committee

Julio Bermudez (co-chair)— Catholic University of America

Phillip Tabb (co-chair)— Texas A&M University

Nader Ardalan — Ardalan Associates, LLC

Hyejung Chang — University of New Mexico

Michael J. Crosbie — Faith & Form Magazine