Architects See the Light

Why does anyone become an architect? It's a terrible profession, even in good times. And these aren't good times.

But for some, they're God times. There's nothing new about architects creating to honor their creator. Antonio Gaudi called his Sagrada Familia in Barcelona the "last great sanctuary of Christendom," and became world-famous for his efforts to complete it.

Others toil in obscurity. But now a film director and a researcher have documented the lives of five men who feel compelled by God to build large structures.

Their film, God's Architects, profiles the Reverend H. D. Dennis, a 92-year-old World War II veteran who transformed his wife's small grocery store in Vicksburg, Mississippi, into a fantasia of towers and bridges. And Leonard Knight, who has turned a mountainside in Southern California into a kind of diorama -- including a three-story adobe igloo -- that renders God's mercy in three dimensions.

In 2005, Emilie Taylor, then a graduate student at the Tulane School of Architecture, received a grant to study visionary builders -- the brick-and-mortar version of "outsider artists." After she shared her findings with the (aptly named) filmmaker Zachary Godshall, he began work on the documentary, which has been making the film festival circuit. Consider it a companion piece to the documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry, in which Milton Wexler, a prominent psychoanalyst who counted Gehry among his famous clients, pontificated about the roots of creativity.

Wexler's patients thought they, too, were speaking to a divine presence. Only their God passed away in 2007.
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