Sacred Landscapes: Spirituality and the Built Environment of Houston’s Vietnamese Community

By Gregory Marinic.

Published by The International Journal of Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: January 22, 2016 $US5.00

For immigrants in America, places of worship convey a desire for symbolic permanence and financial stability, while less formal transitional sacred spaces reveal an understated and ephemeral relationship with the new land. As the most diverse city in the United States, Houston’s multicultural urban landscape is inherently hybridized. Immigration and urban settlement patterns have resulted in a continual shifting and blurring of social customs, cultural influences, and architectural identities. Reflecting on the Vietnamese diaspora in America, this essay examines the impact of Vietnamese influences on “everyday” sacred architectures. It surveys a range of modest adaptations and ground-up interventions that have re-shaped the contemporary built environment of Houston. Using the city as a laboratory, this essay samples various architectural strategies employed by the Vietnamese in the construction, adaptation, and appropriation of Buddhist and Roman Catholic places of worship. It considers the identity of these heterotopian spaces of otherness as they transform and merge with the broader sacred landscape of the United States. Far more than merely religious spaces, these structures and their sites support social, cultural, political, and philanthropic activities—acting as architectural “stage sets” connecting memory with the larger community across space, time, and culture.

Keywords: Sacred Architecture, Immigration, Suburbia, Houston, Vietnamese, Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism

The International Journal of Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design, Volume 10, Issue 1, March, 2016, pp.23-42. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: January 22, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.711MB)).

Prof. Gregory Marinic

Assistant Professor of Architecture, Director of Interior Architecture, Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA