“Middle Ground / Middle East: Religious Sites in Urban Context”
Friday and Saturday, 21 & 22 January 2011
Hastings Hall, Basement Level
Paul Rudolph Hall, 180 York Street
In a part of the word where the intersection of religious traditions has always been at the heart of both cultural identity and conflict, the importance of religious sites for shaping social life – especially in urban contexts – is critical. Religious sites are the outcome of human experiences realized within a particularly dynamic social context, embracing both cultural heritage and modernization. Their tangible and material aspects are among the most fundamental sources of solidarity, practices, beliefs, worldviews and aspirations – what might be called a “hidden cultural synthesis.” Moreover, these spaces are often an important element of the urban matrix within which change is facilitated – one thinks of recent work in such places as Samara, Beirut, Riyadh, Cairo and Jerusalem.
This symposium, co-sponsored by the Yale School of Architecture, the Yale Divinity School, the Yale Center for Middle East Studies, and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, will focus on the role of religious sites representing the three Abrahamic traditions in shaping the urban environments in the Middle East. Recognizing that sacred building – mosques, churches, synagogues, and other holy sites – has often been regarded as representative of patterns of social and cultural division, the symposium seeks to address the centrality of religious traditions, inter-faith relationships, and long practices of learning and tolerance. Leading architects and scholars from a variety of fields and religious backgrounds will examine through a plurality of perspectives the recent paradigm shifts regarding the relationship between architecture and religion and the ways in which religious sites currently engage urban regeneration, economic growth, cultural identity, memory, and the limits of multiculturalism.