Globally, more people are moving to cities. To explore what these changes mean for places of worship in the UK, the Baroness Warsi Foundation launched the Modern Place of Worship. Between May 2016 and July 2018, Mandip facilitated a series of ten events across England & Wales, inviting attendees of all ages and backgrounds to share their views on the role and design of places of worship. The project’s final stage is a Report, co-created between Mandip, Empowering Design Practices and The University of Leeds. Its findings are to be presented at the House of Lords later this year. The project will consist of a series of practical recommendations for designers and community/faith groups.
As part of the project’s learning, Mandip worked closely with multiple stakeholders such as architects, local councils, academics, and local community groups – drawing them into discussion around what has been described as the ‘politics of religious architecture.’ Mandip co-produced interactive events with diverse community groups and universities, festivals and local councils – ensuring conversations were rooted from the ‘ground-up.’ We worked closely with partners to set out the changing nature of community spaces, adapting public sector or design terms into plain english, and co-creating questions to engage and challenge existing perceptions on the use of places of worship. In order to ensure active participation, a range of consultations were held in differing formats such as: closed roundtable discussions for women who felt more comfortable in that environment, events hosted at educational institutions to engage youth voices, and specially designed workshops and activities which supported groups to reflect and in certain cases systematically map their self-perceived challenges and assets for making places of worship places more sustainable and more open for their communities. These included challenges and assets associated with the fabric and history of the buildings, but also religious and secular practices, skills and knowledge, as well as social connections and access to other resources. This variety of consultation ultimately played a critical role in the capacity of these places to re-imagine and shape the future of their buildings.