Architecture for atheists imagined by Bartlett graduate

Architecture for atheists imagined in designs by student Kacper Chmielewski

Graduate shows 2015: Bartlett School of Architecture student Kacper Chmielewski has developed a new style of architecture specifically for atheists, including a shrine to the oak tree (+ slideshow).

Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
Oak landscape

Building on the philosophies of Alain de Botton, who in 2012 advocated Atheist temples for London, Chmielewski proposes a series of structures intended to inspire awe without any references to religion. He calls the project Atheistic Architecture.

Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
Oak landscape

The designer claims that by 2040, less than one per cent of Britain's population will be a member of the Anglican Church. But there are still 55 churches in the City of London, which he believes have become wasted spaces – so he wants to replace them.

Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
Oak landscape

"The institution of church has become a monument to the past, both in terms of the community and its architecture," Chmielewski explained.

"These beautiful temples are decreasingly used for spiritual reasons and are more often being converted into commercial coffee shops – a saddening waste of their potential."

Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
Oak landscape

"In Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton writes about the need for a new typology for atheistic temples," the designer told Dezeen. "He perfectly describes a sense of nostalgia that I feel for religious architecture."

"This project is a response accommodating both the discourse between nostalgia for ecclesiastical beauty and the rejection of fallen religious doctrine."

Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
St Mary-Le-Bow transformation

Chmielewski's proposal centres around St Mary-Le-Bow, the historic church on Cheapside designed by Christopher Wren to replace a predecessor destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

He proposes converting the building into what he describes as "an ever-evolving open cathedral" celebrating the life cycle of the oak tree. The aim is to create a building that incites awe through an awareness of the scale of nature and the universe.

Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
St Mary-Le-Bow transformation

"In today's world, society deprives atheists of places where they can submerse themselves in a moment of solitude, feel a part of something greater, or perhaps connect with nature and the universe," explained Chmielewski.

Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
Celebration Hall

The structure would feature a facade made up of 39,999 sheets of marble with gold trims – referencing the many generations of humanity – as well as a roof terrace for quiet contemplation, and a celebration hall for events.

It would also house the headquarters and library for the British Humanist Association, a non-profit organisation that works on behalf of non-religious people.

Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
St Mary-Le-Bow window detail

Chmielewski's designs, laid out in a series of intricate drawings, intentionally draw on elements of Cubist architecture. Imagined on a city scale, he describes the new typology as "waging war with the previous system of values".

Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
St Mary-Le-Bow gate transformation

"Atheistic architecture opposes religious hierarchy between a deity and its creations. It replaces it with scientific detailing, mimicking nature's incredible spread in infinite detail," he added.

Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
British Humanist Association Library

Atheistic Architecture was completed as part of the master programme at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. Chmielewski was part of Unit 12, which is led by tutors Jonathan Hill, Elizabeth Dow, Matthew Butcher, and which this year focussed on monuments and ruins within the city.

The project is on display as part of the Bartlett Summer Show 2015, which runs until 11 July.

Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
British Humanist Association Library axonometric diagram – click for larger image