Can architectural space promote religious tolerance?


Inspired by the horrors of 9/11 and the acts of intolerance and prejudice that followed the tragedy, Chicago architect Suzanne Morgan created an exhibit of "Sacred Spaces" using architecture and faith traditions to heal rifts among different religions.

Chicago's Holy Family Church is replicated here in model form.

Morgan's exhibit is on display at The University of Akron's Center for the History of Psychology (CHP) featuring five architectural models of places of worship, each representing a distinct congregation. On Saturday, June 15, Morgan will deliver an introduction to her work at 1:30 p.m. to explain how architecture can help neutralize hatred and misunderstanding and bring people together.
"I strive to assure a safe environment for interfaith communication," Morgan says. "Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and so many other religious followers have been attacked and maligned because of misinformation. This sad truth is a great danger to the entire world and I hope I can in a small way afford people a path to tolerance … there is no room for hatred!"

'Sacred Spaces'

Her exhibit of places of worship, or "sacred spaces," is her latest effort to establish this safe, respectful environment. In her introduction to the exhibit, Morgan, who studied architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and holds a certificate in liturgical design from Chicago's Catholic Theological Union, will contextualize each congregation within its structures and traditions and explain her decision to use architecture as a vehicle for interreligious understanding.

Suzanne Morgan

Morgan attempts to foster this understanding by conducting public tours of churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship throughout Chicago. A lifelong Christian with a "Presbyterian pedigree," as she describes it, Morgan keeps an Islamic prayer rug in her Chicago office "just in case a visiting Muslim might need to pray midday," she says.
Rabbi Emeritus Herbert Bronstein of North Shore Congregation Israel, says, "Suzanne Morgan has productively and passionately engaged in the advancement of creative interreligious relations for the betterment and sanctity of human life."

'Living testimony'

Cyrus Rivetna, a Zoroastrain architect, says Morgan's "devotion to interfaith efforts are genuine, selfless and endless," and Linda Higdon, founder of the Global Room for Women, calls Morgan "a living testimony to what the world needs most: love and faith in action." Higdon adds that Morgan "is a modern-day sacred master, combining real-world acts of grace with her spirituality."

The interior of St. Benedict Church in Chicago is recreated in this model.

In 2000, Morgan founded the Upper Room, an interfaith prayer space in the heart of Chicago's financial district. Following 9/11, she founded Sacred Space International to foster interreligious dialogue using architecture as a vehicle for education and understanding, and in 2010 she began her work with the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions, serving as founder of the Sacred Space Dimension and as Sacred Space Ambassador. The "Sacred Spaces" exhibit will remain on display until Aug. 23 at The University of Akron.
Morgan, who also earned an MBA from the University of Chicago, has served on the boards of more than a dozen civic organizations and foundations across the country, and has held positions with several architectural firms over the course of her career, including Loebl; Schlossman; Bennett and Dart and Skidmore; and Owings & Merrill in Chicago.

About the Center
for the History of Psychology

The Center for the History of Psychology (CHP) at The University of Akron is home to a new multidisciplinary institute devoted to understanding historical and contemporary issues in the human sciences. The new Institute for Human Science and Culture (IHSC) will promote education and research in the history, preservation, documentation and interpretation of the human experience. The IHSC will also incorporate educational programs and courses, special collections, exhibits and research that explore the meaning of the human experience from multiple perspectives — psychological, anthropological, artistic and historical.
The CHP is located at 73 College St., on the corner of College and Mill streets. Gallery visits are free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. Research visits are by appointment only. Contact the center at 330-972-7285, or visit the Center for the History of Psychology online.

Media contact: Sarah Lane, 330-972-7429 or