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Seaside Chapel


Seaside Chapel, Seaside, Florida
by Scott Merrill and George Pastor

The contemporary western world might be dominantly secularized, and New Towns are not faith communities nor organized around "religio" as a fundamental dimension of urban life, as  have been  antique and medieval cities, and quite often European and American towns until recently. However the religious and spiritual aspirations of contemporary urban and suburban communities, and generally their intense demand for a spiritual focus in their private and civic lives, remains an intriguing reality.  
 Though churches and temples still have predominant presences in most historic cities, faith and religious practice have undergone substantial mutations and generally the influential role of religion in the ceremonials of public life, in the shaping of the urban communities' identities, and in their spiritual guidance has dramatically decreased in the postwar decades.
In a world where spirituality is in hard competition with a hedonistic consumerism, and where a lot of heretic ecclectism and exalted pagan revivals, occult speculations and shamelessly vicious religious sects challenge institutionalized churches and established faith communities, the reevaluation of the "res sacra" in the city must be of a particular importance, despite, and maybe, because of a critical spiritual and religious frustration.    


Seaside Chapel, Main Elevation
by Scott Merrill and George Pastor

The Sacred and Architecture 


Seaside Chapel, Seaside, Florida
by Scott Merrill and Georg Pastor
(Photo by Philip Bess)

"Do we impress the God who spoke the heavens and earth into existence by our lofty domes or our "dramatic" modulation of light? God's presence is not intrinsically greater at Chartres cathedral than it is at the humblest country chapel, or even at the muffler shop. Nor does God require any particular building type to meet with his creatures."
David Gobel 


Seaside Chapel, Interior Sketch
by Scott Merrill and George Pastor

"Nor does God require any particular building type to meet with his creatures. House /Temple, basilica, tholos, none of these are inheretly more sacred, none belong to the church per se (nor to any denomination). Similarly, human traditions, --though we are tempted to venerate them--, are not divinely inspired.
The inability of architecture to become sacred absolves neither church meeting houses, nor muffler shops from their civic and divine responsibility, to be built with due regard for tradition, decorum and beauty. In this context, the meeting house will invariably have a greater dignity than the shop." 
David Gobel


Seaside Chapel, Seaside, Florida
by Scott Merrill and Georg Pastor
(Photo by Scott Merrill and Georg Pastor)

"The 'church', properly speaking, is never a building. In its earthly form, it is the assembly of God's people. But it is also a civic institution.
God can meet with his people and Christ can be truly present among a congregation meeting in a muffler shop or a suburban mega-church (even one with a Starbucks inside).
But given the choice, the local church ought to build meeting houses that accomodate the worship of God in a commodious and dignified manner, and represent their status as a civic institution in a way that promotes the common good, and bears witness to Christ the king.
To do so out of a tradition or understanding of typology is a folly and shows disregard for one's neighbour. A well-designed, well-built church meeting house might even give delight and cause us to give thanks to our creator who gave skill to the builders, and who is the author of all beauty."
David Gobel
(These quotes by David Gobel,(a professor at the Savannah College of Arts and Design), are taken from a letter: "Non-denominational Churches", posted on Tradarch List, University of Miami )   


Seaside Chapel, Bell-Tower Detail
by Scott Merrill and George Pastor
(Photo by Scott Merrill and Georg Pastor)

New Urban Communities

New towns, resorts and developments are not parish villages or church communities...They are in the best of cases an adequate synthesis of a complex socio-cultural pattern and of a complex urban armature.....
Fresh New Urban communities are often characterized by an ecclectic diversity, solidary however within the common vision of a new urban conviviality, the principles of which refer to the best examples of historic cities, both American and European!
Even if these communities might be seasonal or in a formative stage, it remains that they can rely , --for identification and representation--, on the clearly articulated pattern of the town, the clear hierarchy of its buildings and spaces, the familiarity of its architectural character imbedded in a refreshed interpretation of local traditions of architecture and construction, the ideals of permanence as expressed in its civic monuments...
It is actually by this support of a clearly stated typological articulation of a community in its public buildings and spaces, its monuments and parks, and generally in the  layout and typological appropriateness of the town's urbanism, that a living community can develop a rich and complex urban life urban life in its profane and sacred aspects,  fostering the community's aspirations towards higher ideals of spiritual life and religious communion.    


Seaside Chapel, Seaside, Florida
by Scott Merrill and Georg Pastor
(Photo by Philip Bess)

In this context, both Leon Krier's Meeting-Hall in Windsor and the Seaside Chapel by Merrill&Pastor provide appropriate opportunities of communal focus and adequate  civic settings to celebrate transcendant ideals and the virtue of 'religio'.
Their monumental exceptionality and identifiable civic character, their typological and symbolical definition, the correctness of their location and of their urban integration, etc., stimulate and support the socio-cultural and spiritual cohesion of the urban community as an intrinsic part of the New Urban Civitas!