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ASCF 6: The Architecture of Spirituality in a Multicultural Setting

June 5-8, 2014

If architecture can be said to have a poetic meaning we must recognize that what it says is not independent of what it is. Architecture is not an experience that words translate later. Like the poem itself, it is its figure as presence, which constitutes the means and end of the experience. — Alberto Pérez-Gómez

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General Information

The Forum on Architecture, Spirituality, and Culture hosted its 2014 international symposium in Toronto to explore the nature of spiritual expression as articulated in form and space within a multicultural framework. Our Sixth Annual meeting took place June 5-8, 2014 at the Trinity College in the University of Toronto, located in the heart of Toronto’s midtown core. Well serviced by public transportation, the college is twenty minutes from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) and forty-five minutes from Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ).

Toronto, Canada is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the western hemisphere. An open immigration policy, combined with all of the benefits afforded by a large bustling metropolis has attracted people from all over the world to seek a better life for themselves and their families. Although a certain degree of assimilation has been inevitable, for the most part, immigrants have brought with them their religious and cultural traditions and continue to celebrate their unique identity in relative peace and harmony within the multicultural and multi-religious context that is Toronto. The experience of other regions in the world has ranged widely in varying degrees of accommodation and tolerance

The symposium took place from Noon Thursday, June 5th to Noon Sunday, June 8th. All the accommodations were at Trinity College. Within its central Toronto location, the venue offered a private, contemplative and beautiful setting conducive to sharing, considering, and speculating about ACS issues. As in the past, we kept the number of presenters to less than 30 in order to maintain an intimate and dialogical atmosphere.

The keynote address was given by noted architectural historian and theorist, Alberto Pérez-Gómez.

The Forum for Architecture, Culture and Spirituality is an international scholarly environment established in 2007 to advance the development and disemmination of architectural and interdisciplinary scholarship, research, practice, and education on the significance, experience and meaning of the built environment.

Format and Themes

The goal of the International Symposium on the Architecture of Spirituality in a Multicultural Setting was to explore the nature of spiritual expression as articulated in form and space within a multicultural framework.

More specifically, this general objective was pursued in paper-project-presentation sessions responding to the themes described below. As always in ACS symposia, optional meditation were offered each morning and there was free time for connecting to oneself, other people and the surroundings.


IDENTITY: As global economics and conflicts accelerate intercontinental migration, many spiritual traditions find themselves striving to secure and maintain identity within a completely new and otherwise foreign context. This theme considered the dynamics of faithfully re-creating the architecture of a spiritual tradition, and/or finding expressions of form, space, and ritual that speak to their adopted landscape.

SHARING: In many cases, it has not been feasible to carry out spiritual expression with their traditional landscape. This theme gave consideration to such possibilities as accommodations within the workplace, the creation of multi-faith worship centres, and sharing of existing religious spaces by more than one faith tradition as a means to embrace a multi-cultural environment

CONFLICT: Because sacred sites, buildings, and iconic objects represent primary manifestations of a spiritual tradition, they are often prime targets of sectarian, interfaith, and politically motivated violence. This symposium theme invited to explore the nature of this phenomenon.

FORGIVENESS: This theme gave attendees a chance to explore the question of how design and location of spiritual space and form can contribute to ameliorating tensions, diffusing misunderstandings, and resolving potential conflicts as we seek to find wholeness and peaceful co-existence.


Other compelling papers that related to the symposium focus but fell outside of these themes were concidered and some accepted for presentation/e-publication.

Special Events

Two special event took place. One was a keynote lecture by McGill Architecture Professor Alberto Pérez-Gómez. The second was a Sacred Space Tour of Toronto buildings, gardens, and urban settings.

Membership Meeting & Closing Session

The ACS Membership Meeting on Sunday morning was a business meeting that provided a place for members to discuss the organization’s next steps. The second part of the morning was devoted to summarize and reflect on the conversations, findings, and questions revealed during the symposium.

Location & Cost

Symposium activities took place at Trinity College in the University of Toronto. Originally intended to sequester students on a site far from the city’s temptations, its 1827 charge was unsustainable, and the college became a part of the University of Toronto. Its Collegiate-Gothic buildings and quadrangle on campus were built in the early 20th century. Located in the heart of Toronto’s midtown core and well serviced by public transportation, the college is twenty minutes from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) and forty-five minutes from Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ).

Trinity College is close to many of Toronto’s sacred and special sites, such as the University of Toronto Multi-faith Centre for Spiritual Study and Practice, Trinity Church Labyrinth, Yo-Yo Ma Music Garden, Toronto Island, St. Gabriel’s Parish, Temple Kol Ami Synagogue and the new Agha Khan Islamic Centre. Other significant architecture nearby: Frank Gehry’s Art Gallery of Ontario transformation, Santiago Calatrava’s BCE Place, Will Alsop’s OCAD, Morphosis’ UofT Graduate House, and Daniel Libeskind’s Royal Ontario Museum ‘Crystal’. The symposium touedr selected sacred spaces of Toronto including Shri Swaminarayan Hindu Mandi and St. Gabriel’s Parish.

Sleeping accommodations for Symposium participants were at either the Massey College or Trinity College. Some receptions and activities ocurred at St. Gabriel’s Church.

The cost for three nights single occupancy lodging, all meals (breakfasts, lunches, and dinners) as well as keynote attenance,receptions and group transportation for the sacred space tour was US$ 420 per person. Lodging priority were given to symposium presenters but there were some spaces left for other attendees.

Transportation costs from/to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) range from C$3.00 (public transit) to C$20 (taxi). Transportation costs from/to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) range from C$3.00 (public transit) to C$30.00 (airport express shuttle) to C$65 (fixed fare taxi).

As with our previous ACS symposia, all paper sessions were open to the general public, space allowing. However, in order to attend the keynote lecture and participate in the receptions, tours and other symposium activities, interested parties needed to pay a symposium fee (US$ 150 total — which is already included in the  US$420 total quoted above).


To download a copy of this year’s Symposium Program, click here.


To download a copy of this year’s Symposium participants, click here.


Papers and Works

To view this year’s papers and works, please click here.

Collected Abstracts of the Sixth ACS Symposium (June 5-8, 2014)

Edited by Robert Chiotti, David Pereyra & Dennis Winters (Symposium Chairs)

Note: all submissions to the symposium underwent blind peer review by at least 3 readers.

Archived 6/2/2014.

Symposium Topic: The Architecture of Spirituality in a Multicultural Setting

1 – Jill E. Bambury The Church in the Hyperghetto: The Architecture of African American Churches in New Orleans
2 – Tom Bender Lessons from the Osun Shrine, Nigeria
3 – Elie Harfouche Building Towers of Babel in Beirut’s Central District
4 – Prem Chandavarkar The Ayodhya Conflict: Exploring Intra-Faith Diversity As A Source For Inter-Faith Unity
Identity (I)
1 – Ali Ahmed & Sandra Cooke Recovering the Landscape of the Credit Indian Mission: A Spiritual Journey of the Mississauga First Nation
2 – Trent Smith A Native Identity Crisis: A Look at the Navajo Nation and its Disappearing Architectural Identity
3 – Jacqueline Failer Seeking the Spiritual Self within the Interior Environment: Analyzing the Work of Heidegger to Define the Human-Object Relationship
4 – Michelangelo Sabatino Architecture and Spirituality in New Harmony
1 – Mark Baechler Abrahamic Architecture
2 – Claudia Castellano de Menezes, Ethel Pinheiro Santana & Cristiane Rose de Siqueira Duarte Between Orum and Ayê: Where is This Place? Ambiances and the Symbolic Potential of African-Brazilian Rituals.
3 – Suzanne Bott The Role of Architectural Monuments, Design, and Nature in Foregiveness and Healing in Postwar Multicultural Communities.
4 – Anat Geva An Architect Asks For Forgiveness: Philip Johnson’s Port Chester Synagogue
Identity (II)
1 – Yiogos Hadjichristou Living Along the Dead Zone
2. Lena Sidorova A Sakha temple in a Siberian city: to establish a new identity in an urban landscape
3 – Azizi Bahauddin & Safial Aqbar Zakaria The Interpretation of Light in the Exhibition Design Context – the Malay Cultural Perspectives
1 – Lindsay Jones Pilgrimage, Multiculturalism and Stewardship at the Earthworks of Newark, Ohio: Ancient Models and Future Prospects
2 – Tammy Gaber Beyond the Divide: Women’s Spaces in Canadian Mosques
3 – Michael J. Crosbie Multifaith Centres as Settings for Multicultural Dialogue
4 – Luigi Bartolomei The New Italian Way of Death. Consequences on spaces for funeral rituals of secularization and emerging multi-faith society.
Open Topic
1- Julio Bermudez & Sandra Navarrete Culture, Nature and Spirituality in the Architecture of Wine. A Phenomenological Study of the Salentein Winery in Mendoza, Argentina
2 – Karla Britton Transcending the Real: Cultural Inflections of Canadian Sacred Architecture
3 – Phillip Tabb Celestial Moments in Architecture: the StarHouse
4 – Tom Barrie Materializing the Immaterial: The Ontological Orientations and Agendas of Two Houses
Special Lectures
1 – Nader Ardalan, Julio Bermudez, Prem Chandavarkar, Alison Snyder & Phillip Tabb Transcendent Architecture. A Pilot Study of Works, Conditions & Practices
2 – Roberto Chiotti Imagining a World Centre for Inter-Spirituality and ecology: Reclaiming a Theology of Awe and Wonder
3 – David Pereyra Developing a Contemporary Church Identity in a Multicultural Setting
4 – Bindu Mehra The State of Origin: Reel and Imagined
5 – Alberto Perez-Gomez ACS 6 Keynote: Le Corbusier’s Monastery of La Tourette and the Hermeneutic Imagination

The ACS6 participants posing together in front of Trinity College.

Organizing Committee

Roberto Chiotti (Co-chair) — Principal of Larkin Architect Limited, Toronto

David Pereyra (Co-chair) — Adjunct Professor, OCAD University, Toronto

Dennis Winters (Co-chair) — Principal of Tales of the Earth, Toronto

Julio Bermudez (Webmaster)— Associate Professor, The Catholic University of America