Study finds increase in multi-faith space in UK

March 23, 2012, University of Liverpool

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: Churchgoing teenagers biggest backers of Muslim identity in Britain

More information: For further information about the project visit:

Related Stories

Come here often?

August 5, 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

March 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

Unprecedented study of Picasso's bronzes uncovers new details

February 17, 2018

Musee national Picasso-Paris and the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS) have completed the first major material survey and study of the Musee national Picasso-Paris' ...

Humans will actually react pretty well to news of alien life

February 16, 2018

As humans reach out technologically to see if there are other life forms in the universe, one important question needs to be answered: When we make contact, how are we going to handle it? Will we feel threatened and react ...

Using Twitter to discover how language changes

February 16, 2018

Scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London, have studied more than 200 million Twitter messages to try and unravel the mystery of how language evolves and spreads.


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.