December 4, 2009

Sufism Reoriented responds to concerns about "story poles" and the size and design of their proposed sanctuary

This is a response from Steve Sardella, a spokesman for Sufism Reoriented, regarding the post I did earlier this week on flyers, objecting to the organization's proposed sanctuary, going up around the Saranap neighborhood. As you can read, the flyers raised questions about why Sufism Reoriented won't erect "story poles," wooden structures marking the outlines of their project in order to give the public a visual sense of its height and size. The blue flyers, affixed to telephone poles, specifically said:

"According to Sufism Reoriented, the Sanctuary Building is too large and complex to put up Story Poles…TOO BIG for Story Poles?!?!?!”

Sardella actually send me a longer, thoughtfully written response to several questions I had asked about the project. I'm only publishing his specific response to the story pole issue now, but plan on publishing his response to those other questions as I raise them in future articles.

I was unhappy to read this flyer because it is another example of someone falsely attributing statements to Sufism Reoriented. We never made the statement: “…the Sanctuary Building is too large…too big… to put up Story Poles.” This latest false claim can be added to other bogus statements that some opponents have made to our neighbors, such as saying our building will be “54 feet tall,” we want to create a “national headquarters” in the Saranap, and that we are an Islamic cult.

We have indeed commented on the idea of story poles, but we have said that many architects now value using high quality computer-generated in-scale renderings to provide viewers with more accurate views of how a building will look in its setting. We’ve had these renderings created and we’ve shared them liberally with our neighbors. I’d be happy to walk the property with you and let you hold up these renderings and verify their accuracy for yourself.

I think the people who put up these flyers on telephone poles would be less concerned with how our church will look if they could understand that after the landscaping matures in 5-6 years, they will hardly be able to see it from any perspective. Two thirds of the building’s space will be unseen underground and the church building on the surface will be practically invisible inside a glade of trees.

I would like people to know that we have tried very hard to have our new church blend into the neighborhood. Some who oppose this new church building have particularly focused on the domes in our design. And yet, these domes have nothing to do with our choosing an architectural style we thought would be interesting. Instead, they have everything to do with our beliefs and creating the exalted quality of interior space beneath those domes in which we can practice our faith. They are not elective to us.

Churches of different faiths are located in residential neighborhoods all over Contra Costa County. Many have tall steeples, spires, crosses, and bell towers that are symbolic of their faith, which can be seen from a great distance and from many angles. Many are also located directly on the street, rather than being set back. Urban planners in America recognize the fact that churches, by their very nature, are houses of worship, not residences. The naturalness of congregations designing their churches to reflect their central principles and beliefs is generally accepted. Ours has been designed to reflect our own beliefs.

Many of our neighbors like the design of our new church as evidenced by the large number of signatures they have registered in support at the County. Many have told us they look forward to having the new church here and enjoying the lovely open gardens. These beautiful gardens are intended to convey a sense of peace, refreshment, and inspiration, and we invite your readers to enjoy them as well.

No comments: