Spiritual Sacred Secular

A two-part conference exploring the architecture of faith in modern Britain by the University of Westminster


09:00am, Thursday, 20 June 2019


07:00pm, Friday, 21 June 2019


Special Architecture Foundation Members' Price: £15 per day or £30 for both days
Standard: £45 per day or £80 for both days
Student / unwaged: £10 per day 


University Of Westminster
35 Marylebone Road


This is a past event

***Special AF Members' Discount!***

The University of Westminster in partnership with the Royal Institute of British Architects is hosting a groundbreaking two-day conference to explore the boundaries between the sacred, spiritual and secular in modern British architecture. By bringing together some of the most significant and interesting design practices in the country today, the event will explore contemporary approaches to the design, use, stewardship and conservation of buildings across diverse faiths, and will feature presentations from leading architects, academics, heritage professionals, commissioners and clients.

The conference will include panel discussions and presentations, with contributions from key figures including Niall McLaughlin; John McAslan and Partners; Peter Clegg; Julia Barfield; Roz Barr, Patrick Lynch, Biba Dow, Andy Groarke and Waugh Thistleton.

The conference will conclude with two days of architectural tours in collaboration with the Twentieth Century Society which will look at contemporary approaches to faith buildings. You can book the 22nd and 23rd June tours here. The first day, led by the architectural writer Kenneth Powell, will explore recent examples of repurposing, restoration and renewal of churches in London. The second day will look at new faith architecture in and around the capital.


Thursday June 20th

9.00am: Registration


9.30-10am: Introduction, Kate Jordan (University of Westminster) and Shahed Saleem (University of Westminster)

10-11am: Clients and Architects in the Modern Church
Executive Editor of RIBAJ, Eleanor Young chairs a discussion on the unique relationship between architects and commissioners of faith spaces. The panel will explore the challenges of communicating and interpreting the sacred.

  • Simon Henley (Henley Halebrown);
  • Roz Barr (Roz Barr Architects)
  • Fr Gianni Notarianni (St Augustines, Hammersmith) - Faithful to the Future
  • Fr Serge Stasievich (Church of St Cyril of Turau)

11.00-11.15am: Tea break

11.30-12.15pm: Commissioning Faith Architecture
A discussion on the economic, social and theological issues surrounding the commissioning of new places of worship. The panel will focus on how strategies and responses are being developed to meet changing community needs.

  • Revd Jeremy Fraser (St Paul’s and St James Church, Stratford)
  • Fr Oliver Holt (Douai Abbey) - Benedictine monk of Douai Abbey on commissioning monastic buildings
12.15 -1.00pm: Adaptation and Reuse
Phin Harper, of the Architecture Foundation, chairs this session exploring innovative ways of adapting and reusing faith buildings to reflect shifting patterns of worship. Presentations by award-winning architects who have extensive experience of developing religious sites across London.
  • Matthew Lloyd (Matthew Lloyd Architects)
  • Biba Dow (Dow Jones Architects)


1-1.45pm: Lunch

1.45-2.45pm: Heritage and Conservation

Sarah Milne of the Survey of London chairs a session on the conservation of places of worship, looking at the challenges posed by declining congregations, limited budgets and ageing building stock.

  • Emily Gee (Historic England)
  • Jon Wright (Purcell)
  • Sharman Kadish (Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL) - Twentieth Century Synagogues: Conservation Cases and Challenges 

2.45-3.45pm: Art and Spirituality

Rory Hyde, curator of Contemporary Architecture at the V&A, chairs this session focussing on the work of contemporary artists and curators to explore the role of art in places of worship and how it can serve both sacred and secular imaginations.

  • Laura Moffat (Art and Christianity)
  • Fr Gianni Notarianni (St Augustines, Hammersmith)
  • Julie Marsh (University of Westminster) - Assembley, a site situated film in Brick Lane Mosque

3.45-4.00pm: Tea break

4.00-5.15pm: Contemporary Approaches 
Shahed Saleem chairs presentations and a discussion of recent projects that explore how diverse faith identities are expressed through contemporary architecture.

  • Julia Barfield (Marks Barfield)
  • Andrew Waugh (Waugh Thistleton)
  • Lucrezia Vitaletti (Walters and Cohen)

5.30-6.30pm: Keynote, Aidan Potter (John McAslan + Partners)

6.30-7.30: Drinks

Friday June 21st

9.00am: Registration

9.30-11am: Faith and Society
The first session of the day, chaired by John East, looks at how social change, population shifts and migration are generating new types of fath communities, networks and religious architecture across the country.

  • Andrew Ingham (Denizen works)
  • Andrew Crompton (University of Liverpool)
  • Richard Gale (University of Cardiff)
  • Andrew Rodgers (University of Roehampton)

11-11.15am: Tea break

11.15-12.45pm: Britain's New Religious Landscape
This session examines the architectural contributions and legacies of newer religious communities in Britain and considers the emerging and diverse character of contemporary British faith architecture.

  • Megha Chand (Cardiff University) - Companions of Stone: hereditary Indian temple designers in the UK
  • Caroline Starkey (University of Leeds) - Women Building British Buddhism
  • Shahed Saleem (University of Westminster) - The architectural and social history of the British Mosque

12.45-1.45pm: Lunch

1.45-3.00pm: Style and Architectural Language

Kate Jordan chairs this session of papers which look at the meaning and significance of style in contemporary faith architecture and consider questions of historicism, symbolism and tradition.

  • Alan Powers (London School of Architecture)
  • Craig Hamilton (Craig Hamilton Architects) - Recent Sacred Commissions
  • Peter Clegg (Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios)


3.00-3.15pm: Tea break

3.15-4.30pm: Memorials as sites of the Contemporary Sacred
Through specific projects, this session explores how places of faith and memory overlap to create sacredness within and across cultures.

  • Tszwai So (Spheron Architects)
  • Patrick Lynch (Lynch Architects)
  • Andy Groarke (Carmody Groarke) - 7th July Memorial and Tavistock Square Memorial

4.45-5.45pm: Keynote, Níall McLaughlin (Níall McLaughlin Architects)

6pm: Drinks

Entry includes lunch + drinks

Please note, spaces are limited, and student spaces are allocated within this, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

OPEN, the University of Westminster School of Architecture + Cities end of year show will be running over this period across the studios.



Kate Jordan
University of Westminster

Kate Jordan is a Lecturer in Architectural History and Theory at the University of Westminster. She has written and lectured widely on modern Christian places of worship and has a particular research interest in monastic architecture - her work in this field was shortlisted for a RIBA President's Award for Research in 2016.

Shahed Saleem
University of Westminster

Shahed Saleem is a design studio tutor at the University of Westminster School of Architecture + Cities, a Senior Research Fellow at the Bartlett School of Architecture, and a practising architect. His book, ‘The British Mosque, an architectural and social history’, has been published by Historic England in 2018 and is the first comprehensive account of this building type in Britain. His architectural design work has been nominated for the V&A Jameel Prize 2013 and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2016. His research has won commendations at the RIBA President’s Medal for Research and Historic England Angel Award for excellence in heritage research, in 2018.

Eleanor Young
RIBA Journal

Eleanor Young is executive editor at the RIBA Journal. She writes about the buildings, people and processes of architecture. She has had a few religious experiences in buildings but mostly not in sacred buildings. She grew up an Anglican playing in a deconsecrated Methodist chapel.

Simon Henley
Henley Halebrown

Established in 1995, Henley Halebrown has evolved from a practice working on a range of interiors, exhibitions and domestic commissions to completing award winning education, healthcare, residential, commercial and arts buildings as well as “adaptive reuse” projects.

To date, the practice has also won eight RIBA awards; three of these in 2018 - Chadwick Hall, De Beauvoir Block and Kings Crescent (which also won the New London Awards Mayor’s Prize); and prior to this, Shepherdess Walk, Talkback TV, St.Benedict’s School, Junction Arts & Civic Centre and the Akerman Health Centre, which made the RIBA Stirling Prize midlist in 2013. Chadwick Hall was shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize 2018.

Emily Gee
Historic England

Emily Geeis the Regional Director, London and South East at Historic England, where she has worked since 2001, including as Head of Listing and London Planning Director. Emily has an undergraduate degree from Smith College, Massachusetts, a Masters of Architectural History and Historic Preservation from the University of Virginia, and a diploma in Building Conservation from the Architectural Association. Emily has published on Victorian and Edwardian housing for working women and on listing, including post-war buildings and issues of diversity. Emily is a Governor at Thomas Coram Nursery, on the Council of Camden History Society, looks after the history fundraising lectures at St Pancras Old Church and is a Trustee at the Brunel Museum, Rotherhithe.

(Dr) Sharman Kadish
Bartlett School of Architecture

(Dr) Sharman Kadish has been active in the conservation of the Jewish Built Heritage for over thirty years. She was educated at UCL, St Antony's College, Oxford and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has taught and written widely about Anglo-Jewish history and heritage, including companion architectural guides Jewish Heritage in England (first edn. 2006) and Jewish Heritage in Gibraltar (2007). The Synagogues of Britain and Ireland: An Architectural and Social History (Yale University Press 2011) was short-listed for the American Society of Historians of British Art Prize in 2013. A second edition of her guidebook Jewish Heritage in Britain and Ireland was published in 2015 by Historic England.

Fr. Gianni Notarianni O.S.A.
The Catholic Order of St Augustine

Gianni is a priest in the Catholic Order of St Augustine. He has a BAhons in Fine Art painting from Brighton College of Art and after ordination in 2005 returned to do an MFA in painting at the Slade. Gianni was on the Order’s liturgical committee in Rome from 2002 - 2005 where he helped with the reordering of their International college’s chapel at Santa Monica. Since 2012 he has been parish priest at St Augustine’s, Hammersmith, where he commissioned architect, Roz Barr, and oversaw her RIBA award-winning reordering of the church, completed in 2017. He also commissioned artist, Julian Stair, to make the new altar and baptismal font.

In 2012 Gianni founded an arts and spirituality space called Austin Forum. Here he has developed a programme of contemporary and sacred art, often using St Augustine’s Church for site-specific installations. These include works by Phil Baines, Nina Danino, Pauline Caulfield and Mark Dean. Gianni continues his own artistic practice and exhibits his paintings regularly.

Fr. Oliver Holt
Douai Abbey

Oliver Holt, Benedictine monk of Douai Abbey since 1968. After studies I taught in our school from 1977 until it closed in 1999. I have always been interested in architecture, and particularly church and monastic buildings. After a sabbatical in France where I took the opportunity to visit other monasteries and churches, I became Guestmaster in the monastery for four years and then Bursar from 2005 until the present. I was involved in the selection of an architect to complete (or nearly complete) our monastic buildings, including monastic and guest refectories and a library/archive. During the building phase (2005 - 2010) I was the client representative and was closely involved in the building process. For the last three years I have also been involved in another monastery, Downside Abbey, which has a very rich architectural inheritance and currently we are exploring new ways for displaying our heritage.

Biba Dow

Dow Jones Architects

Dow Jones is an award-winning RIBA Chartered practice who have designed well-crafted conceptually clear architecture, and have been critically acclaimed as one of Britain’s most gifted young practices. They have made work in sensitive sites in both the country and the city, including work to listed buildings, in Conservation Areas, and in a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dow Jones seek to understand the context of each project, and weave appropriate architectural responses into this.

Biba Dow is a founding director of the practice, and has worked on recent project including Maggie’s Cardiff, the Garden Museum and Grand Junction at St Mary Magdalane.


Megha Chand Inglis
Cardiff University

Megha Chand Inglis is a research associate at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, and senior teaching fellow in history and theory at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. She studied architecture in New Delhi and London, working in several award winning offices before pursuing a PhD on Indian temple making practices and modernity (2016). In 1999 she won the RIBA President’s medal for her post graduate dissertation.

Who and what is behind the proliferation of ornately carved stone temples from India in the architectural landscape of Britain? Megha Chand Inglis discusses the production practices of hereditary temple builders from the ‘Sompura’ community and the motivations of their patrons.

Caroline Starkey
University of Leeds

Dr Caroline Starkey is Associate Professor of Religion and Society at the University of Leeds. She is a sociologist of religion, concerned with the contemporary translation and practice of Buddhism in Britain. Buddhism is growing in popularity in this context, and centres, temples and meditation spaces are an increasingly familiar sight in towns and cities from Bath to Glasgow. However, an appreciation of the multi-faceted roles that women have played in developing and establishing these spaces for practice and community have not always been given priority in mainstream scholarly work. In this paper, I will raise questions about the need to pay close attention to the lesser-known narratives of community building and development, and the importance of the intimate relationships that arise between individual women and local communities, places and spaces.

Craig Hamilton

Craig Hamilton Architects 

Craig Hamilton has a special interest in sacred and monumental architecture and has completed three new chapels and is working on a fourth. He has also completed two mausoleums and is working on a third. Essential to the understanding of Craig Hamilton’s work is the importance of the integration of Architecture and Sculpture. In this regard, Craig Hamilton and the Sculptor Alexander Stoddart, Sculptor in ordinary to H. M. The Queen, have collaborated on many projects. In 2018, Craig Hamilton was honoured by the Institute of Classical Art and Architecture in America as the 37th recipient of the Arthur Ross Award for a lifetime achievement in Classical Architecture.

Tszwai So
Spheron Architects
Tszwai So is a co-founder of Spheron Architects, his notable projects include the Belarusian Memorial Chapel in London completed in 2017, it is the first wooden church built in the city since the Great Fire of 1666, and his design 'An Echo in Time', which won an international competition in 2018, for a proposal for the first ever Pan-European Memorial for all victims of 20th century Totalitarianism, to be built in Brussels. 

Tszwai will speak about 'Emotional Architecture'. New discoveries in neuroscience in the 21st century brings new expressions of sacred and commemorative designs. So believes that emotional experience is an instantaneous construct of the present in our mind, and in this talk, he will use his projects such as the Belarusian Memorial Chapel as examples, to illustrate new means of commemoration driving his award-winning schemes.

Andy Groarke
Carmody Groarke Architects

Andy Groarke studied architecture at The University of Sheffield and worked at several architectural studios, including David Chipperfield and Haworth Tompkins, before establishing Carmody Groarke. He has taught at several architecture schools including the Bartlett (University College London) and The Royal College of Art. Andy is currently a visiting Professor at The University of Sheffield and the University of Stuttgart.

Carmody Groarke are internationally and critically acclaimed architects, and have established themselves as one of the leading design practices in the country. Their projects include Windermere Jetty Museum, the V&A Members’ Room and Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre Clatterbridge. The studio has designed projects for clients including artist Antony Gormley, British Land and the Royal Academy of Arts.

Patrick Lynch
Lynch Architects

Lynch Architects was established in 1997 and have since established a significant presence in the culture and practice of architecture. They have been published and exhibited internationally, and work as teachers, writers, critics and heritage specialists. Lynch Architects believe that good design is like poetry, both entail the search for a poetic economy of means.