About The Project

About the Sacred Spaces Project

The purpose of this study is to describe the experience of sacred spaces in downtown Los Angeles in order to identify types of formal and informal urban sacred spaces so that religious congregations can reengage and reimagine the role of sacred spaces in cities today. This project maps traditional built sacred spaces and discovers through urban planning methodology how new sacred spaces are developing in the city. Through this project I hope to provide a thick description of meaningful sacred spaces.

The bigger picture of my research is to discover how our souls can thrive in urban environments. Sacred spaces are just one component of our overall spiritual formation. I propose that we need both formal and informal sacred spaces in order to cultivate a healthy urban spirituality. By discovering the sacred spaces of the city I hope the city can be experienced as a “holy playground” where the urban ecology is equipped with sacredness of place.

Methodology: This project uses a triangulation of methods to collect data through mapping, interviews, and direct observations.

Los Angeles: Los Angeles is used as a case study for this project. I focus on two parallel but vastly different areas of Los Angeles in order to encompass a variety of urban contexts. The first area centers around the location of the original Los Angeles settlement. The area today runs from the 110 Freeway on the west to the Los Angeles river on the east and includes the downtown neighborhoods of Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Historic Core, Arts District, Skid Row, Financial District, and South Park. The second area just west of downtown across the 110 Freeway was where the Los Angeles settlement first expanded into the first “suburbs” of the city. This area includes the neighborhoods of Echo Park, Westlake, and a part of Pico Union. Today, this area is about 75% Latino and predominately immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala.

About the digital map: I wanted a piece of my dissertation research to be accessible and practical to the faith community. So in my process of walking and mapping the city I recorded these locations, images, and my own prayers online through google maps. Furthermore, I included excerpts from the interviews I conducted in order to bring in other voices and narratives from people that live in the neighborhood. I hope that this map will encourage people of faith to walk through the city with prayerful intent. You can find the map here at The Sacred Spaces Project: Mapping LA.

An Addendum: In the neighborhoods of Echo Park, Westlake, and Pico Union there is an abnormally high number of Storefront churches and Korean churches. I did not know how to adequately address these sacred spaces in my research and yet I could not ignore their presence in the neighborhood. Therefore, I incorporated the urban planning methodology of counting and mapping. You can find this addendum here at Westlake: Counting Storefront Churches and Korean Churches.