Multi-Faith Spaces: Symptoms and Agents of Change

A multi-year research project housed at the School of Environment and Development at the University of Manchester, UK. The project is led by a multi-disciplinary team whose research chronicles multi-faith spaces around the world. 

Project Team: 

Dr. Ralf Brand, Principal Investigator
Dr. Andrew Crompton, Co-Investigator
Rev. Dr. Terry Biddington, Theological Associate
Dr. Chris Hewson, Research Associate


Introduction

Increasingly, both public and private organisations are attempting to accommodate religious diversity via the provision of multi-faith spaces (MFS). Some are small and mono-functional (located in airports, universities, hospitals, shopping malls, etc); others take the form of dedicated buildings or complexes, where different religions inhabit and utilise their own sacred space(s), whilst sharing collective ‘secular’ facilities. Here individuals can, notionally, come together to pray, relax, discuss and learn.

Controversy

Within these spaces divergent worldviews might be brought together, with potential reconciliation between belief systems occurring. Some even view MFS as places where new religious practices might thrive. In the past MFS have received overt political endorsement, with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) noting the importance of ‘shared spaces for interaction’. Here MFS are viewed as tangible manifestations of tolerance and pluralism, within a socio-religious landscape characterised by a certain degree of fragmentation. Yet issues arise as to whether these spaces are being constructed to promote narrow socio-political agendas (i.e. ‘cohesion’ or ‘inclusion’ policies), or are put in place to merely appease ‘customers’ – for example, in airports, shopping centres or universities.

This Project

To summarise our findings for a wide audience, we have produced:

  • An exhibition with its own dedicated website (opens new window). Some selected images are also available here (PDF, 200KB), and an exhibition leaflet can be downloaded here (PDF, 1.1MB)
  • A set of twenty five key statements that can be downloaded here (PDF, 48KB)
  • A brief survey that can be found here (opens new window)
  • A two day conference, with materials and exclusive podcasts are available here
  • A short video that briefly summarises our project aims

 Unlike existing studies, we focus specifically upon the embodiment of the multi-faith ideal in ‘built form’, exploring MFS as works of architecture, and more particularly as expressions of the interface between religious and secular worldviews. In assessing the motivations and controversies behind their creation, we seek to investigate:

  • MFS as symptoms of specific societal trends and political ambitions.
  • MFS as works of architecture, shaped through the actions of architects, designers, engineers, artists, users, etc.
  • MFS as agents that encourage, shape or facilitate particular activities.
  • MFS as historical entities, that have developed and consolidated over time.

[Excerpt from the Multifaith Spaces project website. To learn more, visit Multifaith Spaces: Symptoms and Agents of Change.]