Study finds increase in multi-faith space in UK

Mar 23, 2012

A study by the University of Liverpool has found an increasing number of shared spaces for prayer, reflection and meditation, despite the declining popularity of established religion.

The first ever study of multi-faith spaces in the UK undertaken by the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester observed a mushrooming of multi-faith facilities over the past 10 years in places like airports, universities and hospitals. They are also increasingly common in businesses, football stadiums, shopping centers, schools and .

Dr. Andrew Crompton, from the University of Liverpool, said: “Multi-faith spaces are a relatively recent phenomenon, mainly from the second half of the 20th century, with enormous growth figures since the late 1980s, and rising again in the last 10 years. This is despite declining membership numbers in most established religious organisations in the UK.”

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the team from Liverpool and Manchester Universities have visited over 200 multi-faith spaces (MFS) to date.

Though charting the emergence and scope of these spaces is difficult as many are concealed from public view they estimate over 1,500 exist in the UK.

Dr. Crompton added: “Successful multi-faith spaces do not need to be flashy or expensive. In many places we have found that a small, clean and largely unadorned space can serve adequately.

“While this phenomenon – and multi-faith issues in general – have received attention from a theological perspective, less is known about practical themes, such as architecture, and ornamentation within MFS. Our team focused on these design issues.”

The project team also visited 10 other countries as diverse as Germany, the United States, Switzerland and Macedonia to place the UK situation within an international context.

They consist of architect and co-investigator of the project Dr. Ralf Brand, sociologist Dr. Chris Hewson and the Manchester Universities Chaplain Rev Dr. Terry Biddington.

Together they were not only interested in the motivations and processes that lead to the creation of MFS, but also best practice in design and layout, and the wider social effect of these spaces.

Dr. Brand said: “Many MFS could be said to merely ‘house difference’ which means that users practice their ‘’ either sequentially, or apart. This is particularly the case in what have been termed non-places, such as hospitals, shopping centres, and airports. In such locations, demonstrative religious practices are often viewed as something that, while not objectionable, should at least be concealed from public view.”

Dr. Hewson added: “Encounters are likely to be among what one might term ‘liberally minded’ users, and evidence suggests that such encounters might have to be actively facilitated through a carefully managed programme of activities and events, rather than being left to occur spontaneously. However, this is not to say that, going forward, MFS do not have the potential to facilitate genuine and significant encounters between people of different faiths.”

Key findings from the project will be presented to representatives of religious organisations, academics and design practitioners at an international conference at the University of Manchester on 21 and 22 March. Findings have also been translated into a professionally curated touring exhibition, including over 300 photographs that will be launched during the conference.

Explore further: Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

More information: For further information about the project visit: www.manchester.ac.uk/mfs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Come here often?

Aug 05, 2011

To date, most social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn have relied upon the ‘friend-of-a-friend’ approach to try and determine which people may have connections with one another.

Math meets music

Mar 25, 2011

Geometry is the force that shapes both the sound of music and the novel research of Florida State University composer-theorist Clifton Callender, whose work explores and maps the mathematics of musical harmony.

Recommended for you

Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

19 hours ago

Analysis of the results of a large-scale survey reveals the extent of truancy in English secondary schools and sheds light on the mental health of the country's teens.

Fewer lectures, more group work

19 hours ago

Professor Cees van der Vleuten from Maastricht University is a Visiting Professor at Wits University who believes that learning should be student centred.

How to teach all students to think critically

20 hours ago

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills. ...

Consumer loyalty driven by aesthetics over functionality

Dec 17, 2014

When designing a new car, manufacturers might try to attract consumers with more horsepower, increased fuel efficiency or a lower price point. But new research from San Francisco State University shows consumers' loyalty ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.