BIG Faith: Immigration and the History, Politics, and Architecture of Large Sacred Spaces in Sweden
Project Period: 2012-2013
Type: PostDoc Project
Program Area(s): Material Conditions/Critical Projections
BIG Faith studies the culture and politics of large churches and mosques constructed by immigrant faith groups in Sweden since the 1970s. It investigates how such structures crystallize conficts around the form and function of public space and how they have, in their size and complexity, altered Swedish architecture and planning practice. I combine methods from the history and theory of the built environment and anthropology - archival research, formal analysis, and participant-observation - and link to recent urban research that emphasizes how space is both shaped and shapes society, especially Lefebvre´s "production of space."
I trace the history of Swedish faith groups with connections to places from Saudi Arabia to Poland to Somalia and chronicle the buildings that they have borrowed, rented, and transformed into religious spaces over the past forty years. Taking a close look at how more recent, larger projects emerged, and at the buildings themselves, I ask: Why have protests and fears of insurgency in "invisible" places emerged in the planning process? How have architects and planners been required to rethink building permits, planning, materiality, location, and scale? How do these structures function as gathering places both locally and globally? As faith groups have invested in the slow production of permanent, expensive, and extremely large buildings - acting as semi-public spaces and monuments - I investigate how they have changed the history, shape, and design of Swedish cities and architecture and planning practice more generally.