Gilbert Sunghera, S.J.: research fellow designs sacred spaces
According to Gilbert Sunghera, S.J., "There has been a lack of imagination in the creation of worship spaces over the last few decades. My interest is helping raise the level of design used in these environments." Currently, Fr. Sunghera is a senior research design fellow in the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, a non-profit design research program based in the School of Architecture, where he also worked in the late 1990s.
At the Design Center, Fr. Sunghera's work takes many forms. "We work with non-profit groups around Detroit, and any Jesuit or Mercy project around the country," he says. "My specific area of work is in a new area for the Design Center, which is Liturgical Space Consulting - assisting congregations who are planning on either building new or renovating existing worship environments." In addition, Fr. Sunghera consults with other groups. "Sometimes it is with design work directly. At other times I advise groups as they start the planning process," he says.
Fr. Sunghera is well suited to the wide variety of projects he undertakes. His extensive academic career includes a Bachelor of Social Ecology with a focus on environmental psychology from the University of California Irvine, a Master of Architecture from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, as well as a Master of Divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. Most recently, Fr. Sunghera earned a Master of Sacred Theology from Yale University, where he focused on contemporary sacred space.
Fr. Sunghera also spends time in the classroom as an instructor rather than as a student. Recent undertakings include a mini-course on architecture for future liturgical designers at the Chicago Theological Union and a lecture on the writings of German architect Rudolf Schwarz. "I am also commenting on some changes to the Catholic Chapel at Yale, and a small church in Utah," he says. In addition, he assists the Archdiocese of Detroit on the architectural review committee. Fr. Sunghera is also working with a New York parish to assess their current physical plant, and is involved with other projects for the Jesuits in California and Connecticut.
Fr. Sunghera also enjoys photography but – not surprisingly – says he doesn't have time for it.