Slovenian Jesuit Robert Dolinar has received a prestigious religious architecture award. Bestowed jointly by the American Institute of Architecture’s Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture and Faith & Form magazine, the award honors Dolinar’s work on the Chapel of Our Lord at the Ignatian House of Spirituality in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The annual Religious Art & Architecture Design Awards program, founded in 1978, honors the best in architecture, liturgical design and art for religious spaces.
“I’m glad to see that the jury recognized this little chapel. While architecture is a solitary and often secluded activity, I am always happy when a project is concluded and people move in,” Dolinar said. “Then the only important thing to me is whether the building helps people to open themselves toward their inner self and God.”
The Chapel of Our Lord is part of a retreat house built in 1925. During the building’s reconstruction in 2010, the Jesuits decided to convert a room into a space for meditation and prayer.
Dolinar served as architect, and the project reflects on the qualities of silence.
Existing walls were cut through to reveal the history and character of the original building, and Dolinar chose materials that are rarely used for architectural design, including spruce, limestone gravel, plaster, gauze and wheat, to represent the fragility of human existence. He also shaped the forms by hand, allowing architecture to fuse with sculpture and vice versa.
The jury commented that Dolinar’s space “presents a series of evocative, tactile experiences that are united through texture, color, material and craft throughout … One uses all of one’s senses, and each of the materials is expressed in a very natural way, raw but refined at the same time … It provides a series of surprises that keep the senses engaged.”
Dolinar joined the Society of Jesus as an architect, and during his Jesuit formation he has built several sacred spaces, including chapels and an interreligious prayer room. The Chapel of Our Lord has already received two architecture awards in Slovenia.
Drawing comparisons between the life of a Jesuit and that of an architect, Dolinar says, “A Jesuit likes silence. He listens to people carefully, and then he draws into reflection and study. He deepens to meditation and after discerning, he finally acts. I believe that the approach of an artist is very similar. Both Jesuit and artist focus on people’s deep needs.”
Dolinar, who says he is driven by the phenomena of silence, sacredness and home, is currently designing a memorial to victims of totalitarianism and building a chapel for the Salesian Sisters in Ljubljana.
An exhibition of the award-winning projects will be displayed at the 2013 National Convention of the American Institute of Architects in Denver this June, and the awards will be presented at that time. For more on the awards, visit Faith & Form magazine and the 2012 Faith & Form/IFRAA Religious Art & Architecture Awards.