America has always had a close relationship with religion. Regions of the country were developed by religious zealots who sought freedome to worhsip for themselves, but were reluctant to give it to others. The U.S. has more homegrown religions and cults than most other countries, and the majority of Americans consider themselves affiliated with some faith, even if they only attend services sporadically. Churches, temples, synagogues, meeting houses, and mosques are an intrinsic part of the built environment.
California often serves as the butt of jokes about religion, as evidenced in Douglas Adams' So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, in which a guidebook states that in San Francisco, "Starting a religion for you is just their way of saying 'hi'."1 However, this exhibit celebrates the California Bay Region's grand diversity of religious expression.
In examining religious structures and spaces in California, this exhibit looks at different aspects of how these places are populated. These include their origins, the way the ethnicity and culture of the congregations shapes the space, their diverse uses, and the design of the "modern" California religious institution. "Relgious buildings are often perceived as closed spaces anchored in the past, but when they distance themselves from traditional dogmatic structures, offering free spaces for the interpretation of spiritual affairs, they can become modern and open places that promote dialogue and understanding among believers."2
A caveat: while there is a tremendous diversity of religious expression in California, materials on display are limited to the holdings of the UCB Environmental Design Archives, Environmental Design Library, and Visual Resources Center. Any omission of a particular religious group or type of worship is a reflection on the material available through these sources. We value all religious expression, and no disrespect is intended.
1) Adams, Douglas, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, NY: Ballantine Books, 1984, p.90
2) Faith: Spiritual Architecture, Cristina Paredes Benitez, ed., Barcelona: Loft Publications, 2009, p.7