8 Places Where Old-Time Religion Is Getting a Sexy New Look

Bow your head to faith's newest evangelist: contemporary architecture.

November 14, 2011

Reading Between the Lines in Limburg, Belgium.

At last count, the number of people who claim no religious affiliation despite professing a belief in God was growing even as churches in the United States lost members by the thousands each year. This trend toward an individualistic, personal belief system is reflected in new synagogues, chapels, mosques, and nondenominational "worship" places, which find some middle ground between the elaborate, awe-inducing cathedrals of the Gothic era and the bland arena architecture of today's mega-churches. These new-wave divine spaces integrate anything-but-sacred architectural elements like plastic and cardboard with wood and glass to create, quite literally, more transparency: They are open to the passersby outside as much as the higher power above, relying on space and light to communicate what Le Corbusier called "the ineffable." Here are 8 of our favorite houses of the holy.

Inflatable Chapel

In the courtyard of the religious center at the University of Southern California, architecture professor Gail Peter Borden has installed an inflatable metal-and-plastic structure that assembles itself with a switch, utilizing the shapes of religious icons like the cross, the Star of David, and the yin and yang.

Photo: Courtesy of Luke Gibson Photography

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