MArch alum’s spiritual spaces gaining recognition amid global pandemic

Rachel Grochowski (UWM MArch, Architecture—1995). Photos from Archinect.

The work of New-Jersey-based architect Rachel Grochowski (UWM MArch, Architecture—1995) has garnered wide attention in the era of COVID-19. Feature articles appeared in August in Archinect and Forbes , and in May 2021 Baristanet —a self-described “leader in hyperlocal news” whose coverage area includes Montclair, where Grochowski livespublished a Q&A.

Before the pandemic, Rachel Grochowski was busy designing yoga studios, movie theaters, upscale bistros, and other kinds of crowded gathering spaces tailored to the lifestyle and wellness needs of communities that we all took blissfully for granted in a world without COVID.

Learn about the Master of Architecture program at UWM.

Flash forward to the present, and our toned-down but still chaotic, pandemic-induced stasis, where the architect is adapting to the growing demand for revitalized interior sanctums with her Montclair, New Jersey-based firm.

As the founder and principal of RHG Architecture+Design , the UW-Milwaukee  graduate has been hard at work applying her knowledge of chapels and other religious spaces into remodels of area homes in need of some serious spiritually sprucing up.

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“In my contemplation in creating spiritual spaces, I started going back to the foundation of architecture which is really through the cathedral. It was really through religion to be closer to God. It’s why I see architecture design and spaces no matter their purpose, as spiritual, Design is spiritual. It just depends on how you see it,” says Grochowski.

Even as a child, Grochowski explains how her understanding of spirituality, having a grounding experience, or the creation of any particular experience was heavily influenced by nature and her surroundings. “As a child, I had an awareness that spaces were creating experiences and held energy. Often it was about the space, the texture, the energy or the stillness. It may have been through walking through the woods in Northern Wisconsin where there were mounds that were Native American burials, or in elementary school in Colorado where kids would go to an area called "the pit," which was a sunken area where a more intimate conversation would happen. Even at that young age, there was an understanding that the physicality of going down those steps and coming into these spaces created a different kind of experience.”

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How do you make a living? OR What is your everyday passion?

I am the founder and principal of RHG Architecture+Design . The integration of architecture and design has always been my passion as it has the power to affect our experience of life. It can become the alchemy of our homes, our workplaces, wellness spaces, and where we eat and shop. Architecture and design isn’t just about beauty. It’s about humanity.

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