Revisions to the Architecture of Hell

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The pope is about to abolish the notion of limbo, the halfway house between heaven and hell, or as Dante had it, the fist circle of hell.

The >>BBC<< tells us “Pope Benedict XVI’s anticipated pronouncement on limbo will have been informed by the International Theological Commission – a group of leading Roman Catholic theologians who have been meeting to consider the issue.

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The Pope, himself, has been quoted in the past as saying that he would let the idea of limbo “drop, since it has always been only a theological hypothesis”.
He was quoted as saying that limbo has never been a “definitive truth of the faith”.”

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Religion has always been a kind of spatial practice. That’s why it built most of the history of architecture.

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Stonehenge connects an earthly place with the solar calendar. Ancient Greeks re-wrote real landscapes to accommodate their deities. Egyptians made complex cosmically engaged tombs at huge scale.

Later, Northern European Cathedrals dramatized the narratives of verticality: of heaven above and hell below using vertiginous Gothicism.

In section, these are all attempts to place you – to fix, illustrate, describe, and make experientially explicit the human position within a cosmic order.

The plan however is earthly. It tells you your hierarchical position in relation to the center of power through devices such as nave, apse, and so on.

Where the plan intersects the section is the ground zero of religions power.

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Perhaps it is because of religions fundamentally architectural character that makes it so important for mysterious Vatican committees to constantly check and recheck their maps of the afterlife (that and the slight PR problem of un-baptised babies going to limbo rather than direct to heaven).

It might well be imaginary but the architecture of hell seems as problematic as any real world project. In this light, the Pope might want to call in the architectural great and good. On past form, OMA, Zaha, Foster and co. would have few qualms in masterplanning hell.

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