Announcement Bar Text Here

Home / Engage / Symposia / 2012 Symposium

ACSF 4: A Pilgrimage & Three Salons

April 1–5, 2012

Jump to:


General Information

The first three Architecture, Culture and Spirituality (ACS) Symposia were devoted to establish a community of scholars, educators and professionals engaged in the study and practice of architecture, culture and spirituality. Given the group’s youth, it was important to offer members venues where a variety of work could be peer-reviewed, shared, and discussed. The nearly 80 works published online and in two issues of the magazine 2A attest to the success of this vision as well as the remarkable productivity of our ACS members.

Standing on this solid record, ACS 4 went to the very foundation from which ACS springs: the actual experience of an environment infused with such spiritual, cultural, and architectural power to catapult us into a numinous, ineffable, sublime state. In order to do so, ACS 4 asked participants to voluntarily take off their cultural, religious, language, ecological, ethnic, temporal, and architectural frameworks of operation in order to engage anew in the ancient act of pilgrimage. The destination is CHICHEN ITZA (in the Yucatan peninsula, MEXICO), the urban/architectural treasure of the Mayan civilization. The meeting will take place Sunday 1 to Thursday 5 April 2012.

Because of its pilgrimage nature, ACS 4 deployed a very different type of scholarly and professional structure and procedure. Based on the sound principles of rhethoric, reflection-in-action, and action research, ACS 4 requested participants to propose and then direct or deliver on-site discussion-papers and workshops/exercises on topics germane to the spirit of this enterprise and their own expertise. ACS 4 organized these proposals within three Salons affording both collective and individual experiences. Given the nature of the ACS 4 experience, we limited symposium registration to about 20 individuals.

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 & Cost

The ACS 4 Symposium took place at two sites: Isla Mujeres (Sun 1 and Mon 2 April) and Chichen Itza (Tue 3 and Wed 4 April) — located in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico.

CHICHEN ITZA: “At the mouth of the well” (in Yucatec Maya)
The ruins set in the plains of the Yucatan represent the Maya civilization that extended over several centuries, reaching its apex during the 9th Century (800 CE). Constructed and arranged with great precision, the ruins, arranged in three complexes, are an appropriate pilgrimage setting in which contemplation, observation and discussion can take place. Infused with mystery, ritual, time, cosmology, Chichen Itza forms a confluence of experiences open to our own imaginations and spiritual quests. For more, follow these links: (video)

ISLA MUJERES was once a sanctuary for the goddess Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of fertility, reason, medicine, happiness and the moon; hence its Spanish name meaning Island of Women. Removed from the heady tempo of Cancun, the island seems a perfect place with which to begin our pilgrimage. Beaches, small hotels, quaint restaurants provide a quiet environment suitable to the first Salon. For more information visit:

All activities occurred on location following the age-old tradition of “Salon”. Given the mild nature of the Yucatan in Spring, we made maximum use of the situation holding ACS 4 conversations and workshops under open sky, by the sea, and at the ruins.

As in previous ACS symposia,we charged NO symposium registration. However, a US$ 100 fee was required from all participants to cover (1) the Cancun-Chichen Itza roundtrip bus ride and (2) some travel costs of ACS4 keynote speaker and sacred space expert on Mayan architecture, Professor Lindsay Jones. Expenses participants had to consider were hotel accommodations (about $90/night in Isla Mujeres and $65/night in Chichen itza + taxes), Ferry and shuttle transportations from airport to Isla Mujeres (about $22) and entry ticket to the Chichen Itza ruins ($9

Before deciding to go, all attendees were asked to realize that they were NOT be in America or Western Europe and that our meeting was not a guided tour. Participants had to be sensitive to the local ways of conducting life and business. ACS 4 was a pilgrimage that demanded patience and understanding. However, it was precisely because we were not in total control, had much access to social media, cell phones or the internet, and because it was a different place with different people, language and customs that we chose to go. ACS 4 asked attendees to be open to something new and potentially sacred. We reminded ourselves: we only get what we honestly give.


Given the intentions behind this symposium, ACS 4 used the old concept and practice of “SALON” to organize scholarly and professional activities. A ‘Salon’ is a gathering of people under one roof or in a special place brought together with the purpose of learning, enjoying, or debating ideas, artwork, and projects. Salons have traditionally consisted in direct, oral, hands-on engagements between presenter(s) and audiences. Following this custom, ACS 4 requested works able to resort to old (i.e., rhethoric, dialectics, praxis) and new (i.e., reflection-in-action, action research) methods of discussion and inquiry in one of the following two categories:


Discussion Papers

A 30 minute led conversation on a particular theme of relevance to ACS 4. Authors presentes their point in 10-15 minutes and then moderated the ensuing discussion among attendees. This format was appropriate to test new ideas, projects, programs, and work as well as to provoke attendees into new territories of ACS reflection and experience. Discussion papers included a series of questions or issues that were posed for the audience to respond, comment, or debate. Authors were also expected to direct the discussion during their 30 minute time limit. We had 6 works in this category.



A 1-2 hour long guided activity that had specific intentions, follows a clear methodology, seeks specific (and reviewable) results, and symposium attendees could be interested to undertake (individually or in groups). A workshop was to be embedded within the various activities attendees were to take place during ACS 4 (e.g., while visiting the ruins) and elective. There were 4 workshops. To review them, please follows this link: workshops

Keynote Lecture

Mesoamerican & Sacred Space scholar Lindsay Jones discussed Mayan civilization, religion, and sacred architecture and Chichen Itza in particular. His excellent knowledge of Mexico and the Yucatan also proved handy and insightful during the full trip. He was our official guide to the ruins. His symposium keynote lecture was entitled “Narrating Chichen Itza: A Modest Contribution to the History of Ideas — and Storytelling — about the City of the Sacred Well.

There were a few rules to follow: all selected works had to occur on site, consume little or no resources, and run only on analog technology (paper, muscle, voice). No digital or electricity-based system was permitted or provided. Hence the idea of ‘Salon’ as the selected format of symposium operation.


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


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

Papers & Works

Collected Abstracts of the Fourth ACS Symposium (April 1-5, 2012)

Edited by Julio Bermudez and Robert Hermanson (Symposium Chairs)

Note: all submissions to the symposium underwent peer review by at least 3 readers. Archived 5/8/2012.

Keynote Lecture

Lindsay Jones Narrating Chichen Itza: A Modest Contribution to the History of Ideas — and Storytelling — about the City of the Sacred Well
Discussion Papers
1 – Rumiko Handa Learning from the Ruins:Theorizing the Performance of the Imcomplete, Imperfect and Impermanent
2 – James Bassett Constructing the Mean
3 – Julio Bermudez Usus in Praesens — Drawing as a Meditation Practice for Being Present through Architecture
4 – Thomas Barrie House of Death: Symbolic,Mediating and Transient roles of Funerary Architecture
5 – Kevin Ladd & Brenna Costello Structuring Spirited Spaces: The Roles of Intuition and Data
6 – Robert Hermanson Ruins: Contemporary Conversations
1 – Dennis Winter Creating Centres of Cosmology with Stone and Sand (at the Beach, in Isla Mujeres)
2 – Julio Bermudez Sketching at the Ruins, Chichen Itza (see above)
3 – Michael Crosbie Writing about Chichen Itza, Writing about Ourselves (at the Ruins, Chichen Itza)
4 – Katherine Ambroziak Two Stones: A Nonce Ritual of Juxtaposed Cultures (Outside the Ruins in Chichen Itza)


ACS4 participants at Chichen Itza with “El Castillo” pyramid behind!

Organizing Committee

Julio Bermudez (co-chair)
The Catholic University of America
phone: (202) 319-5755

Robert Hermanson (co-chair)
The University of Utah