UBC Graduate Research

A Church in the Wild : Recontextualizing the Backcountry as a Spiritual Landscape and the Shelter as Sacral Architecture Mella, J. Patrick


The term “wilderness” is difficult to define as its boundaries constantly shift and our perception of it just as grey. Typically depicted as rugged and untouched landscapes, its relationship to humans have changed overtime whether it was viewed as a place of danger and fear, a useless obstruction, or somewhat recently, a place of unspeakable beauty. Spirituality is also a constantly shifting notion, and just as vague. Many attribute it to solitude, nature, and solace often tied with religious beliefs. These beliefs and narratives were not a construction of a new world but rather a deconstruction, re-interpretation, and reconstruction of the existing one around us. Sacral architecture and structures were early examples of artifacts; traces of humanity acting as spiritual channels, a way to comprehend order in chaos through sensory input. Yet despite an increasingly secular and, arguably, non-religious society, wilderness landscapes continue to be spaces of contemplation and reflection. This poses a question for artifacts, and what they might entail when stripped down to their essence, as mediators between the human figure and the landscape. Is there value in embracing these human traces in the wild and how might that begin to define a different type of spirituality based on perception? This is a study of the spirituality found in the backcountry as experienced through the human scale, an exploration of our place in the world and a celebration of our capacities.

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