NEUROPHENOMENOLOGY & SACRED ARCHITECTURE
Toward an Experimental Theological Aesthetics (March 23-25, 2023)
Can we use today's and future empirical means to raise our understanding of the phenomenology of sacred spaces and structures, particularly in relation to spirituality and faith? The work and thought of late neuroscientist Francisco Varela loom large here, but much has occurred since his passing, and a whole new world is unfolding. Additionally, due to the focus of the program funding this Symposium (TRT's Art Seeking Understanding), we considered connections to what has been termed 'aesthetic cognitivism' by some philosophers (notably Gordon Graham and Christoph Baumberger). And, of course, insights from Theological Aesthetics played an important role in these considerations as well.
A selected number of individuals whose works and thoughts have been significantly advancing this new area of scholarship and research participated in the Symposium. They came from various disciplines, including psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, theology, medicine, computer science, the visual arts, music, and, of course, architecture. Such broad interdisciplinarity allowed us to view and interrogate the intersection of spirituality and the built environment from first, second, and third-person perspectives.
Lastly, this meeting wasn't so much about listening to great lectures (although we had them) but more about actively exchanging, arguing, and exploring ideas, questions, methodologies, findings, and possibilities. Similarly, we had panel sessions covering ongoing research to provide concrete examples. We usedsuch pointers to discuss more significant, paradigmatic issues associated with harnessing 21st Century knowledge, science, and scholarship to understand better how architecture (and the sacred arts) gives us access to spiritual realities and information. To guarantee this type of symposium dynamics, the lectures were followed by short commentaries/responses from 3 experts to invite productive and interesting discussions. Panels were moderated conversations among the participants. In both cases, Q&As from the larger audience were part of this program. The intention was that these healthy exchanges would begin building what may be called, for lack of better terms, an experimental theological aesthetics.
The full information about the symposium and VIDEO RECORDINGS are available below and also on this other website: https://sacred-space.net/ASU-symposium/
Video Recordings (all Lectures and Panels)
Anjan Chatterjee Lecture - The Neuroaesthetics of the Built Environment
Panel Works 1 : Empirical Research
Panel Topic 1 : Neurophenomenology
The Symposium was part of the official activities of the School of Architecture and Planning and included in our Spring Semester 2023 Lecture Series.
The event was conducted live at the School on The Catholic University of America (CUA) campus. CUA is easily accessible using the Red Line of the Washington D.C. Metro system (Brookland Station). All the lectures were broadcast over the internet using a webinar format. The Panel Sessions were not but are now available in video recordings (see above).
This Symposium was completely free and open to the public for both in-person or online attendance (those parts that were broadcast). The only requirement was to register beforehand.
For a SUMMARY PROGRAM of the Symposium, please follow this link.
For a DETAILED PROGRAM of the Symposium, please follow this link.
We would like to thank the Templeton Religion Trust for supporting the pursuit of two related research projects investigating causes and effects of sacred vs. secular architecture on Catholic Believers. For information about these two ongoing studies, visit the other pages on this website.
For more information on the TEMPLETON RELIGION TRUST, click here:
For more information about the ART SEEKING UNDERSTANDING program at TRT, click here.
We want to recognize all the symposium speakers. We were able to provide only minimal support and yet all of them joyfully accepted to come to Washington, D.C., (some from another continent) to participate in this event. Without them, none of this would have been possible. THANK YOU!
We also need to express ourgratitude to staff members of our School of Architecture and Planning for their help in planning, securing, and running this symposium, namely Paula Riff, Lorenzo DeAlmeida, and Christian Moraless. Thanks also go to Dean Mark Ferguson for supporting this effort and to the school faculty and students for allowing us to use much of the building for the duration of the symposium.