1st Edition

Architecture and Sacrament A Critical Theory

By David Wang Copyright 2020
    216 Pages 64 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    216 Pages 64 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Continue Shopping

    David Wang’s Architecture and Sacrament considers architectural theory from a Christian theological perspective, specifically, the analogy of being (analogia entis). The book tracks social and cultural reasons why the theological literature tends to be separate from contemporary architecture theory. Wang argues that retrieval of the sacramental outlook embedded within the analogy of being, which informed centuries of art and architecture in the West, can shed light on current architectural issues such as "big box stores," the environmental crisis and the loss of sense of community. The book critiques the materialist basis of current architectural discourse, subsumed largely under the banner of critical theory. This volume on how European ideas inform architectural theory complements Wang’s previous book, A Philosophy of Chinese Architecture: Past, Present, Future, and will appeal to architecture students and academics, as well as those grappling with the philosophical moorings of all built environments.


    1. Architecture in a world of originals 

    2. The loss of glow: architecture in an age of representation 

    3. A critique of "criticalist" architectural theory 

    4. Dwelling in the sacramental zone 

    5. Sustainable design in the sacramental zone 

    6. Creativity in the sacramental zone 

    7. God in the details: sacrament and tectonic jointure 




    David Wang is Professor Emeritus of Architecture at Washington State University. His previous book is A Philosophy of Chinese Architecture Past, Present, Future (Routledge). Dr. Wang has written and lectured widely on design research. His co-authored text Architectural Research Methods (with Linda Groat) is in its second edition. He is also co-editor (with Dana Vaux) of Research Methods for Interior Design: Applying Interiority (Routledge).

    "David Wang’s participatory vision rings profoundly true. When buildings rhyme both with our own, internal moral order and with the harmony of the cosmos, they participate in the very life of God. Architecture and Sacrament is an unapologetic and deeply learned foray into the sacramental zone that results from the incarnation itself." - Hans Boersma, Nashotah House Theological Seminary

    "Architecture and Sacrament argues that architecture today would be understood more truly and fruitfully viewed through the lens of historic Christian sacramental theology, with attendant implications for our understanding of persons, communities, environmental stewardship, and human participation in sacred order. David Wang’s thesis is brave, radical, remarkable…." - Philip Bess, University of Notre Dame Professor of Architecture, author Till We Have Built Jerusalem

    "Is Architecture and Sacrament a contemporary argument, foiled in the voices of contemporary thinkers, for Alberti’s concinnitas?  Alberti wrote:

    Neither in the whole body nor in its parts does concinnitas flourish as much as it does in Nature herself; thus I might call it the spouse of the soul and of reason.  It has a vast range in which to exercise itself and bloom - it runs through man's entire life and government, it molds the whole of Nature (9.5 para.5; trans Rykwert et al).

    David Wang uses “rhyme” to signal an affective/cognitive integration that he points to a nestedness of the order in the individual, to the city, to a cosmos beyond: “The distribution of the built object in front of me rhymes with an internal moral order within me, which in turn rhymes with an orderliness in the cosmos.”  We can thank Wang for opening an entirely new, or new again, consideration of ultimate ends in the efforts we should make for places to which we are in the most significant ways suited.Christopher C. Miller, Architecture Program Director and Professor, Department of Art, Benedictine College  

    "There are moments when the practice of architecture can seem to be a rather near-sighted and even petty endeavour, necessarily focused on immediate imperatives. This book, instead, exposes architecture to staggeringly big questions, connecting the architectural detail to nothing less than conceptions of a moral and cosmic order. In so doing it presents an integrative theory that begins to undo some of the damage inflicted by the segregated realities of our dwindling post-Enlightenment optimism, while also offering an escape from the dead end of contemporary architectural despair.

    Wang’s book resists easy categorization, just as its arguments defy expectation. Readers must be willing to engage with biblical text, Vitruvian theory, and Neo-Confucian doctrine, with Kant and Heidegger, with Karl Barth and Erich Przywara, with Aldo Leopold and Wendell Berry. Not all readers will find themselves in full agreement at every step. But the exercise of articulating their differences will itself prove valuable.

    Readers who appreciate the systematic application of intellectual curiosity to architectural thought will love this book. Where else might they encounter a critique of recent theoretical approaches to architecture quite as glorious as Wang’s exposition of the elision of Saint Augustine from K. Michael Hays’s analysis of Mies van der Rohe?" - Kyle Dugdale, Critic in Architecture, Yale University, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University