Richard Vosko Interview in Church Designer

Church Designer magazine published an interview with Fr. Richard Vosko on March 29th about where he thinks liturgical architecture is now and where he sees it heading. It is well worth the read.


  1. I have only had the chance to personally experience one of Fr Vosko’s liturgical spaces – the renovated Cathedral in Milwaukee about thirteen years ago or so, and it left a very strong – and very negative – impression on me of his work. Perhaps his new church designs are better (the Methodist church PrayTell is raving about seems better, and I never would have guessed it came from the same person), but that renovation completely worked against the fabric of the historic church building to produce a space that was awkward and uncomfortable. I have never attended a Mass where the people around me vocally complained how uncomfortable they were while Mass was going on, and I have never been in a church where I couldn’t see everything that was going on in the sanctuary. I won’t be surprised if, within a generation, they spend a boatload of money restoring the place back.

    1. @Jay Edward:
      Whatever the demerits of Vosko’s design for Milwaukee, I would much more quickly flee from a Catholic church that mimicked that Methodist church, which appears to run the gamut of banal-to- terrible for true liturgical worship in so many ways I will spare other commentators.

      1. @Karl Liam Saur:
        Both the Milwaukee cathedral and the Methodist church aren’t my cups of tea, but at least the Methodist church isn’t jarringly dissonant like the Milwaukee cathedral.

    2. @Jack Wayne:
      I suppose it’s a minor point, but “Pray Tell” didn’t post on the Methodist church and Pray Tell isn’t raving about it. Like all our posts, one contributor wrote this post, expressing his own views.

    3. I’m sorry, maybe I am being harsh but he has destroyed countless churches. I recall a church is Michigan that was ‘renovated’ to his ideas despite desperate protests from parishioners.
      As far as our methodist bretheren are concerned, don’t forget, mothodists have communion rails and generally kneel to recieve. Anybody wanna say why Catholics don’t? Who has the better Eucharistic theology?

  2. I was in Milwaukee a few years ago for an NPM convention during which I participated in a liturgy at the renovated Cathedral. I found it provocatively beautiful and inspiring in the way it drew in the participation of the worshippers. I went to the convention center afterwards and ran into then archbishop Dolan with a jovial band of followers. I told him that I just came back from the cathedral and noted my admiration. He quipped, “Wanna buy it?” Pure Dolan.

    Like or dislike of architectural tastes in the design of Catholic worship spaces is strongly related to one’s Christology and ecclesiology. High Christologists and ecclesiologists seem to prefer high ceilings and towering crucifixes, magnificent stained glass windows, and lots of statues, and, of course, a spectacular golden tabernacle smack dab in the middle of the presbyterium. While I hasten to add my own great appreciation for churches of that type, they pose problems for the celebration of the Eucharist and other sacramental rites as renewed following Vatican II.
    This is why I prefer a design that makes it easier for people to experience themselves as a community of priestly people gathered with presbyters and other ministers to offer the Church’s sacrifice of praise. A design that makes it clearer that the presbyter is a servant leader rather than a potentate “lording” it over his subjects. This is a building with a large commons area where the ability to chat before and after Mass obviates the need for chatter in the sanctuary. A building with a font of such stature that makes clear the importance of baptism and affords the opportunity for immersion of one kind or another. A place that does not hide musicians in a rear gallery but gives them a noble but not intrusive space adjacent to the Presbyterium. Just saying.

    1. @Jack Feehily:
      My comments had less to do with taste and ecclesiology and more to do with functionality. I’m glad you were placed somewhere you could participate – I wasn’t, and it was a large multi-parish confirmation Mass, so I didn’t get a choice where I was placed. The bishop was not visible whenever he was at the Cathedra.

      I can dislike the style of something and still appreciate it.

  3. Frankly, I am not happy to see a broadside on the Milwaukee cathedral on this thread — this is off topic, and there is not even remotely enough information about it in the post on which to conduct an informed discussion about that design. I happen to know a lot about it, but this is not the subject of this thread. The topic here is the interview.

    1. @Rita Ferrone:
      I apologize if my mentioning of the Milwaukee Cathedral was off topic. I made a natural connection between the person being interviewed and my own informed personal experience of that person’s work. Surely you can understand why I made the connection and that it was hardly a “broadside.”

      The interview mentioned that “Vosko’s design philosophy of a worthy place for worship centers around the time-honored ingredients such as ……….. seating plans that engage the community in the public rituals.” My experience is that wasn’t the case, so there is a disconnect between his philosophy and the practical application of it.

  4. When I was entering grad school (St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry) in August of 2008 my first class was a liturgy class, my professor, Richard Vosko. Prior to my graduation in 2013, I got to tak other classes with him, and have interacted with him in a variety of ways over the years. I’m hardly around PT these days but glad I popped by to see this today. I have learned so much from this man, whose work influenced me long before I knew who he was and long before I ever imagined the career shift I have experienced over the last decade!

  5. Fr Vosko mentions LED lighting. Our church and a neighbouring one have installed super efficient very ‘cold’ lights, making the nave much less comfortable to me. Unfortunately they are also super long life, so there won’t be a chance to start doing anything about it for at least 10 years. If anybody wants to do this in your church, make sure they get the colour balance right.

    1. @Anthony Hawkins:
      The people of many parts of Brooklyn offered their LED sufferings to the nation with regard to ~5000K LED street lights. I was able to fructify their misery, as it were, telling the engineer of my small city north of Boston that their sample LED street lamps were too harsh and needed to be brought down to a warmer color.

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