Nature and Religion

"Because of this concept of nature as permeated with divinity, Shinto shrines are often found in places of natural beauty or sites with an air of grandeur or mystery about them; shrines themselves are often places for the worship of nature."8 Photographs of Shinto and other outdoor shrines above illustrate this point.

Examples here demonstrate some interesting use of outdoor space.  The Seventh Day Adventist camp by Garrett Eckbo (1910-2000), designed in 1961-62 is a descendant of the great revival camps of the 1800s.  On the American frontier (wherever that happened to be at any given time) there were few ministers and few churches.  Itinerant preachers made the rounds, mostly preaching outdoors.  As people sometimes journeyed several days to hear the preaching, they had to stay overnight, or for the duration of the entire gathering, so camps sprouted up at these "Revivals." They became a combination social gathering, religious experience and and break from harsh frontier life, or in the current vernacular, a place for "preaching, teaching, music, food and fellowship!"9 Some revival meetings are still held today, but camps like these are more likely to be used as family and/or summer campgrounds, primarily a place for community recreation with some religious overtones.

The First Congregational Church in Redwood City used a design device not often seen in the west, althought more commonly found in Buddhist temples in Japan.  The use of a rock formation as a contemplative device inside the church reflects the rock formation that existed outside the church.  Sadly, with decreasing membership, the congregation moved to a different site, and the church as depicted here no longer exists.

Above are several other churches that incorporate natural elements into the buildings; Anshen & Allen's Chapel of the Holy Cross, 1956, in Sedona, Arizona and the Church of the New Jerusalem (Swedenborgian Church) in San Francisco, which uses large tree branches as parts of the supports, and has paintings of landscapes by William Keith on the walls.


8) Caroline Humphrey & Piers Vitebsky Sacred Architechure.  London: Duncan Baird Publishers, 1997, p. 92