15 February 2022

Philip Sheldrake, “The Beauty of Place”

The design of particular buildings and of the wider built environment helps to shape our sense of “place”. Place identity is an aspect of human experience that impacts strongly on how we relate to our surrounding world. If “building well” involves “beauty” as well as functionality, I suggest that in this context “beauty” implies more than being visually attractive. Across the centuries, both philosophy and theology connect the idea of “beauty” to moral and spiritual values such as “wholeness”, “harmony” and “the good” – including expressing divine goodness. In this context, my talk will explore what makes for a “good building”, what it means to “build well” and how buildings can shape the “beauty of place”. I will illustrate this with some historical examples.

Philip Sheldrake is Senior Research Associate of the Von Hugel Institute, St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, and also Professor at Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, TX. Trained in history, philosophy and theology, Philip has previously been a professor at the University of Wales and later at Durham University. He has worked with architects in the UK and the USA, including co-organising a residential workshop on “spiritual placemaking” sponsored by The Prince’s Foundation and acting as an award judge for the RIBA.