Inter-Religious Encounters in Architecture and Other Public Art

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 October 2024 | Viewed by 2152

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Faculty of Architecture and Art, Norwich University, Northfield, VT 05663, USA
Interests: modern religious architecture; interreligious/interfaith conceptions of sacred space; histori-ographies of modernism, monuments, and memorials; theories of ornament

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Religious identity, practice, and meaning have long been profitably studied in the context of art and architecture. Among the expected results are concrete expressions that, over time, have solidified into typological forms. One may think of the development of Western Christian architecture from the house church to the basilica to the hall church to the meetinghouse to the megachurch, for instance, with all the attendant changes of art and liturgical furnishings along the way. Similarly, conceptions of sacred space, time, or action have been key themes in comparative religion. They have provided interpretive schemas for what is ordinary or universal amidst differences and how attribution may relate to or compete with experienced phenomena—all embodied in material and built forms.

However, spaces and places of inter-religious encounters demonstrate the limits of such apparent typological, analogical, or conceptual clarity. Specially designed environments for inter-religious cooperation, such as interfaith chapels, are exceptions to the rule of a greater, hardly comprehensible, complexity. Yet there is great potential here to reconsider typologies, incorporate material culture into studies of the built environment, and appreciate diffuse and subtle markers of religion as they help constitute public life. From the mental maps and images that someone may hold about definitions and functions of a mosque to how a row of churches dominates a streetscape to contested sites and images across media landscapes, inter-religious encounters happen in and through specific contexts of architecture and public art. These contexts are not only ripe for careful study; their diffusion and ubiquity—if attended to and noticed—make them promising focal regions for improving inter-religious understanding.

This Special Issue of Religions invites contributions to such understanding, focused on architecture and/or art in the public realm. Methodologies, themes, and discourses of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Permutations on the “public sphere” (multiple spheres, publics, counter-publics, networks, assemblages)
  • Role of civic religions
  • Importance and challenges of syncretism
  • Intersections of liturgy, theology, and religion across multiple traditions
  • Intersections of religion with other identities
  • Historical, theoretical, and critical approaches
  • Iconographic, iconological, and semiotic analyses
  • Phenomenological analyses
  • Typological analyses, especially if advancing new typologies
  • Patron/client/user/reception histories
  • Relevance of comparative and inter-religious theology
  • Ecumenism, pluralism, post-secularity
  • Constructive post-modernism
  • Mapping as a means of emplacement
  • Iconoclasm and word/image controversies
  • Demographic growth of the “nones” (including the religiously unaffiliated and the “spiritual but not religious”) and those of Multiple Religious Belonging

Dr. Timothy Parker
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Published Papers (2 papers)

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10 pages, 210 KiB  
Article
The Meeting: Ideas for an Architecture of Interreligious Civic Collaboration
by Steven G. Smith
Religions 2024, 15(3), 360; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030360 - 18 Mar 2024
Viewed by 680
Abstract
Interreligious engagement (IE) has been experienced and theorized mainly as the pursuit of a shared respectful awareness of the beliefs, practices, and social experiences of multiple religious communities. In rare instances, it has been possible to create architecture specifically to foster IE, as [...] Read more.
Interreligious engagement (IE) has been experienced and theorized mainly as the pursuit of a shared respectful awareness of the beliefs, practices, and social experiences of multiple religious communities. In rare instances, it has been possible to create architecture specifically to foster IE, as in the “tri-faith” Abrahamic campus in Omaha and the Berlin House of One. The theme is: Here we are, accepting that we share the world. Another form of IE that deserves to attract more interest is multireligious collaboration in civic work (addressing homelessness, urban blight, illiteracy, etc.). Some adherents of the intrinsically cosmopolitan “world” religions are actively cosmopolitan to the extent of seeking this engagement. The theme is: Let us share the work of the world, including sharing our religiously inflected processing of what the practical issues facing us are. There is a new initiative of this sort in my city, Jackson, Mississippi, named (from M. L. King) the “Beloved Community”. An architectural thought experiment may prove helpful in articulating the ideals for such an endeavor. What would be the physical desiderata for its headquarters? Let us imagine a new downtown building, The Meeting, dedicated to housing meetings where mixed religious groups learn about civic issues and coordinate efforts to address them. Full interreligious sharing of a space seems to require a neutral design lacking any definite religious inspiration. But there are nonsectarian ways to create an appreciably special, non-ordinary space, as in courtrooms and classrooms. Could a civic IE headquarters be special, expressive of practical optimism, and contain a sufficient religious allusion to qualify as a “next-to-sacred space” in which religious actors felt supported in the civic extension of their religious lives? I offer suggestions for discussion, including (1) a pavilion-style building suggestive of being set up for a special purpose—not soaringly grandiose but with a vertical feature such as a central roof lantern; (2) at least one major porch, with benches and tables; (3) an outside water fountain with public water supply (a historical allusion to the Islamic sabil); (4) inside, right-sized meeting rooms around the glass-walled periphery; (5) a big “living room” lounge in the center, usable for larger meetings, with access to a kitchen, and with a big project board for tracking work completed and work in hand next to a large map of the city; (6) a moderate descent of several steps into each meeting room so that there is a feeling of commitment in attending a meeting and a sense of challenge in going forth from one; (7) otherwise a main floor levelness and openness facilitating movement in and out, as in a train station; and (8) upstairs small offices for religious and other qualifying organizations. Answering the aesthetic and practical questions these suggestions raise takes us into imagining civic IE more concretely. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Inter-Religious Encounters in Architecture and Other Public Art)
27 pages, 5211 KiB  
Article
Creating the Multifaith Chapel, 1938–1955: Architecture and the Changing Understanding of “Religion”
by Jeanne Halgren Kilde
Religions 2024, 15(3), 275; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030275 - 23 Feb 2024
Viewed by 750
Abstract
Interfaith or multifaith chapels are so ubiquitous now in the United States—present in colleges and universities, hospitals, shopping malls, and airports—that their development as a distinct architectural form is often taken for granted. Yet that development in the mid-twentieth century was complex and [...] Read more.
Interfaith or multifaith chapels are so ubiquitous now in the United States—present in colleges and universities, hospitals, shopping malls, and airports—that their development as a distinct architectural form is often taken for granted. Yet that development in the mid-twentieth century was complex and even fraught. Taking a religious studies approach, this article examines the development of three early examples—the Chapel of the Four Chaplains, the Brandeis University chapels, and the MIT Chapel—to reveal the gradual movement, conceptual and architectural, toward a viable space serving many religions. While the former two examples proved unsuccessful in their goal of establishing a shared interfaith space due to their reliance on an understanding of religion as discrete traditions that resulted in exclusivist incompatibilities, the latter example moved beyond the emphasis on traditions to advance an unconventional, phenomenological understanding of religion as individual experience and spiritual life, and by doing so successfully achieved the goal of creating a space amenable to practitioners of many traditions, or none. Further, this article demonstrates how architecture functioned as a constitutive component in the developmental and popularization of this fresh understanding of religion and religious experience. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Inter-Religious Encounters in Architecture and Other Public Art)
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