Debate: Is modern church architecture always hideous?

The 'Jubilee Church' in Rome, designed by US architect Richard Meier (Photo: CNS)

The respected Vatican commentator Andrea Tornielli says a Vatican commission is being established to put a stop to “garage-style” churches. He writes:

Too often architects, even the more famous ones, do not use the Catholic liturgy as a starting point and thus end up producing avant-garde constructions that look like anything but a church. These buildings composed of cement cubes, glass boxes, crazy shapes and confused spaces, remind people of anything but the mystery and sacredness of a church.

Surely, he is right: modern churches often look more like supermarkets or spaceships than places of worship. Traditional church architecture works. It inspires devotion. Modern architecture, by throwing out tradition, fails to offer anything that can raise people’s spirits to God.

On the other hand, bold design can still take the liturgy as its starting point. There must be some examples in Britain or around the world where modern architecture does convey mystery and sacredness.

So, is modern church architecture always hideous? Or are there outstanding new churches that do inspire devotion?