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We have designed a unique building, a single enclosure containing a church, a synagogue and a mosque.

This is not a ‘multi-faith space’ (as found in airports, hospitals and the like) and we are not saying that all religions are one, or should be one, or that everyone should live together and disregard difference. We are saying that religion is difficult and complex, and that different religions do differ in beliefs and practice. We are also saying that just as there is a history of conflict between faiths, there is also an greater history of tolerance and coexistence. And that this coexistence takes effort and planning.

This scheme refers to the history of religious buildings, and cities, that have been shared through time by the three faiths, from Jerusalem, to Istanbul, to Seville, to the Great mosque of Cordoba, to the Hagia Sophia, to the Brick Lane Mosque. Both architecturally and culturally, the three faiths have an entwined and symbiotic series of relationships. This project, therefore, brings together all of these historical and cultural references into one contemporary spatial experience.

So we have sensitively tried to bring the three religions physically together, using each of our knowledge of religious practice, habits, customs, rules and restrictions. Therefore the church has a nave, an altar and a font (baptistery) and seats; the synagogue a bimah and ark, seats too (with men and women each on separate sides) and it faces Jerusalem; the mosque faces Mecca, is carpeted for knealing, has a central mihrab, and separates the prayer halls of men and women. We have adhered to these known rules and have not deviated from them.

But universal natural light from hidden places, and beauty are common to all three religions. The roof, a simple plane, is held up by a curving tree-like structure springing from a single point in the plan. And privacy, quiet and the importance of washing and water are also common themes.

We say that this building is a mosque on Friday, a synagogue on Saturdays and a church on Sundays. For each of these days this is what they are and nothing else. For the rest of the week, the building is open to all for reflection and prayer. The building would be managed and financed collectively as an act of sharing and cooperation.

Could this project be built? Just having to ask that question shows how perhaps unlikely this is. But it could be built temporarily, perhaps as a festival piece, to open up a debate and to create something unusually spiritual and undoubtedly beautiful.

Dan Leon, Shahed Saleem, Matthew Lloyd

November 2011