December 15, 2023


“When I do something, I usually go full blast.”

Julio Bermudez’s teaching career has reached its conclusion after forty and a half years. At the end of 2023, he will be retiring from CUA. Since 2010, Julio has directed the Sacred Space and Cultural Studies graduate concentration at Catholic’s Architecture School, receiving tenure for his research, and publishing several books in the process. He says his research is motivated by his personal journey and the ways that religion and faith have served as his anchor during the most complicated moments of his life.

A young Julio poses with his elementary school classmates; second row from the top, third boy from the right.

Julio Bermudez is originally from Argentina, and moved to the United States to pursue his Masters in Architecture and PhD in Education at the University of Minnesota, where he got his first job as an instructor. He taught there for eight years, then moved further west to work for the University of Utah. There, he received tenure, researching how architecture can interact with computers and other technology.

Bermudez’s studies made him a force to be reckoned with in the field of architecture, as he received multiple accolades including the 1998 AIA Education Honors Award. In 2007, he co-founded the Architecture, Culture and Spirituality Forum, an international organization intended to explore the connection between architecture and spirituality, and he currently serves as its president. In 2009, he saw a job posting from the Catholic University of America for the Director of the Sacred Space and Cultural Studies graduate concentration. He was offered the position, and began in the spring semester of 2010.

“This was a dream job I always wanted to have. I had been working in that area for a while, but it was hard to get traction in a secular university with this work that is focused on spirituality… It was so compelling, the narrative of CUA, what the School of Architecture was about.”


Julio developed an interest in the relationship between spirituality and architecture after what he calls his, “mid-life catastrophes.” With his mental health declining, he turned to religion; in 1996, he began practicing Zen Buddhism, then converted back to Catholicism in 2014.

“I’m in this pain, and I said, you know what, I just need to go to mass… And I went to mass at the Crypt. [The] first time I go in there, I sat in the back, because I felt a little bit of an imposter [syndrome]… and the mass starts, and the moment that the mass starts, I start crying… and [when] I go home, I feel much better, and so the next day I came back… it was like going back home to my own faith”

Julio sought to discover how architecture can bring us back to our faith, and how it “could help humanity to awaken, to flourish.” In 2015, he edited Transcending Architecture: Contemporary Views on Sacred Space, which was published through the Catholic University Press, in which he discusses the design aspect of sacred spaces. In November of 2015, Julio co-edited a book called Architecture, Culture, and Spirituality with Thomas Barrie and Phillip Tabb, where he addresses the spirituality of architecture with an academic perspective. “How the most physical, material thing… [how it] could propel us into the most metaphysical, more ethereal, more spiritual dimension of humanity.”

In his most recent book, Spirituality in Architectural Education, Julio dives into the Walton Critic Program which, at its core, looks to determine how spirituality plays a role in the education of young architects. Through the Walton Critic Lecture Series, Julio has brought world class architects to Catholic University, trying to make it a consistent element that makes the School of Architecture and Planning a program that stands out.

8.jpgUpon his retirement from Catholic University, Julio plans to continue his research on the connection between neuroscience and architecture. With funding from the Templeton Religion Trust, Julio is using the latest biometric technology to measure what happens in our brains during our experiences in spaces that we regard as sacred. In the coming spring, a PBS special will be released about his discoveries, and he looks forward to continuing to advance in his research that has brought so much change and impact in the field.

“It’s kind of hard to say about my legacy, but I wish that whatever I did has helped some people. They will forget me in two, three years - that’s what happens. But maybe… I touched somebody’s heart. And some students continue doing good or trying to do good. Looking back on my long life, some people have affected me in ways that only now I begin to understand… you never know how you are affecting people.”  

As he leaves this school, Julio reflects on what he will miss most of all - the students. One student, Sandra Guillen, says she will miss his genuineness and work ethic. During her senior year of undergrad in 2017, Sandra studied under Julio in the Walton Critic Studio. When she learned that Julio would be teaching his last semester, she came back to Catholic, and is so grateful that she did. “I hope he is pursuing what he wants to pursue, and that he will come back to say hi once in a while.”


Julio overlooking Machu Picchu

Academics aside, Julio plans to spend his remaining time on this earth preparing to meet the Lord - taking care of his temple before he goes to God’s temple. He plans to hike more, immerse himself in nature, and to forge deeper connections with the people in his life. “I have been so committed to my career, a career that has been about giving myself to the task at hand. I have paid a tall price for that. I have placed a lot more importance in my career than in my relationships with people, and I’ve been told that… It was because I had this vocation... So what I want to do is to not remediate that, because I don’t feel guilty, and I’m convinced I would do it the same way again, despite some errors… [But] I want to have a family life. I want to enjoy my time as a family man. And I want to grow.”

Julio’s parting thoughts are his advice to current and future students.

“Your job is to find your job, and to give yourself completely to it. So what is your job? I think when we are sent to this earth… God has a plan for us, He gave us a soul… and our soul comes with a job. One of the hardest things to do when we’re young is to find that, and we have so many other voices that they silence our true internal voice. What is your voice? What is it that God wants you to do? What did God give you that is unique to you? How do you find your true self? We must find our voice, find our calling, and we must do it. Find your calling and just give yourself to it - trust it and be your true self profoundly. Follow your bliss, follow your soul. Follow your vocation, and things will work out.”

Thank you, Julio.