I don't know much about Catholic Church architecture, but I do know that most of our post-1950s churches are horrendously hideous in the aesthetic sense. Basic pews, basic sanctuary, basic sclupture, basic stained glass. My first church, Holy Rosary in Milton, Ontarion, was designed to represent a massive tent. If that weren't strange enough, the sanctuary was a maze of curved dry wall, resembling the turning sea rather than, well, a wall. I can't even remember if there was a crucifix in the whole building.
What I began to understand as I came back to my faith, was that during this period of artificial artistic and architectural denegration, the faithful of the West experienced a massive crisis of faith. Most of this 'crisis' has been linked to dissenting theologians, poor pastoral leadership and even worse catechesis, but I do wonder if some of it can be attributed to the debasement of church architecture and liturgical.
As most capital 'C' Catholics know, the church itself is a liturgical expression. By that I mean the whole building must, in a certain way, direct the congregation toward Christ and His sacrifice, so that they may worship and pray in a sincere and authentic manner. One of course is reminded of the stories about previous Catholics who could provide a brief theological lesson by simply explaining the eschatological meaning of yellow stained glass. When Catholic churches began to resemble their iconoclast Protestant neighbour's, the church ceased being a partner in the liturgy and simply four walls and roof people just happened to visit once a week. I don't think its a coincidence that during this time, Catholicism also became something people just happened to 'do' once a week as well.
I've often thought that there are a few small steps every diocese could take toward 'reliturgizing' its churches. Bring back the Communion Rail. Besides the Tabernacle, Altar and Crucifix, I think this is one of the most vital parts of the Catholic liturgical architecture/building structure. Other than the aforementioned three, there really isn't another structure which would so drastically affect the way people prayed at Mass. Receiving Christ on the knees, whether it be by hand or tongue, is maybe the most humbling act most of us Catholics perform each week. It forces us, even if it is simply posture, to more fully understand what we are doing when we receive the Body and the Blood of our Lord. It is such a wonderful teaching moment for us, and all it takes is some wood and padding.
I think I'm going to mention this to my pastor and the other parish youfs.