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Modern church architect as ritual anthropologist: architecture and liturgy at Clifton Cathedral

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 March 2012

Robert Proctor
Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art, 167 Renfrew Street, Glasgow, g3 6rq,


For the modern architect, the programme for the church was fraught with the dangers of excessive individualism of style or, alternatively, a merely superficial updating of tradition. To escape from both, the architect was, by the early 1960s, being exhorted to study the church's functions. Aware of the difficulties of placing ancient rituals in the same category as the sociology of education or the productivity of offices, architects and like-minded clergy saw the church as a building not only to house certain actions and communications, but also capable of lending these a relevant meaning. The church architect had to discard his preconceptions about the building type, and begin with a new analysis of ritual, and had also, therefore, to find out what the ritual meant by questioning the client and developing a brief. In this research the architect would therefore act as a ritual anthropologist; like the anthropologist, he would encounter some significant methodological problems.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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