January 22, 2011 by: Ben Heimsath

Sacred Path with FootbridgeAlmost everything in our environment is created or impacted by human beings, yet very few are considered holy, sacred or spiritual.  Through my architectural practice I’ve worked with hundreds of communities striving to create or re-invigorate buildings to make them suitable for worship.  While there’s no formula or recipe for making a spiritual place, I’ve come to believe that there is a fundamental knowledge all human beings have about spirituality and space.

This blog is a way to look with fresh eyes at the improbable ways we see, understand or create special, spiritual places.  I'm particularly interested in the overlooked, or overly obvious experiences that are all around us.


I began this exploration by looking at highway monuments marking fatal accidents.  I coined the phrase "Suddenly Sacred" to describe a growing number of these spontaneous installations.suddenly sacred ghost bike 

Have you really looked at these places -- at this proliferation of sudden monuments, shrines and markers that have become commonplace over the past few decades? They dot our highways, lawns or open spaces.

Even with stringent laws against structures in roadways, these objects are left in place by code enforcers, trash collectors and grass cutters.  It's as though an unwritten agreement has been struck to allow a spot to become holy, even for a short time.

Most of these assemblages are made of humble, commonplace materials.  Many are born of deep loss or grief.  The authors of these sites are rarely trained designers. Yet some of these places have all the power of the grandest cathedrals.  These spontaneous architects are expressing with simple urgency their own existential statements.  All we have to do is notice.



wood cross & car resized 600

Holy Place/ Suddenly Sacred/ Memorial