Moving Pictures: Reusing cinemas as places of worship in the diaspora

Kate Jordan (Architecture + Cities) and Julie Marsh (Westminster School of Arts)

Funded by Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)

USING PIONEERING CROSS-DISCIPLINARY methods, this project examines the adaptive reuse of cinemas as places of worship. In so doing, it captures a vital snapshot of faith and diaspora in contemporary urban landscapes which could inform future heritage practices. A broad survey of converted cinemas used as places of worship will support close readings of specific sites in London.

In addition to offering a picture of faith in the twenty-first century, the case studies will provide valuable information on the role of planning in the reuse of heritage buildings, exploring practical constraints but also the potential for generative dialogue. The project will combine scholarly research with the innovative art-based methodology, ‘Site-integrity’ (developed by the project’s co-leader, Julie Marsh) to gather data and record material through film, audio recording and oral histories. These outputs reflect the architectural significance of the case studies’ former existence as cinemas. To understand the wider context, the team will visit a selection of cinemas that have been reused as mosques, temples and black majority churches across the UK. In each of the site visits and case studies, the research will explore encounters between heritage bodies, local communities and faith groups, examining intersections of the sacred and secular; assimilation and autonomy. By uncovering the role of faith communities in shaping and negotiating their own spaces, the project will demonstrate that adaptive reuse of heritage buildings by diaspora communities is a practice that is culturally enriching, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive.

MORE is a part of Open Studio project run by the School of Architecture + Cities at the University of Westminster to make its design, research and practice-based work available online while it is happening.

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