Constructing Nature at a Chapel in the Woods

Richard R. Bohannon II

in Ecospirit

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780823227457
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823236626 | DOI:

Series: Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquia

Constructing Nature at a Chapel in the Woods

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This chapter focuses on a small but significant building, Thorncrown Chapel, and uses the work of Bruno Latour and Pierre Bourdieu to question how the “human” and the “natural” become constructed through the built environment. While Thorncrown is not entirely alone in departing from normative Christian architecture, in its relative uniqueness the chapel provides a helpful and more transparent example of how “humans,” and “nature” are constructed in religious architecture. This is due in part to the chapel's influence and fame in American religious architecture in the twenty-five years since its completion, but, more significantly, because the building's fame derives precisely from its relationship to its immediate environment. As a building that, in the architect's words, “aligns itself with the attributes of nature,” the chapel provides a challenge both to the lines often drawn between humans and nonhumans, as well as to what it means to “construct” those boundaries.

Keywords: Thorncrown Chapel; ecological theology; religious architecture; nature

Chapter.  5238 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christian Theology

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