Thursday October 9 

14:00 – 15:00 Introductory Lecture

Professor Kathleen James-Chakraborty Updating the Eternal: Abstraction in Architecture for the Religions of the Book

Introduction and chair Lisa Godson (NCAD)



15:15 Panel Session Modern Church Architecture in Ireland and Germany

Chaired by Hugh Campbell (Professor of Architecture, UCD)

Kai Krauskopf Conservatism and Radicalism in Modern Church Design in Germany

Ellen Rowley A Quest for Authenticity: Catholic Church Architecture in 1950s and 1960s Ireland

Carole Pollard Right and Correct: Liam McCormick’s Seven Donegal Churches



17:30 Keynote Lecture Amandus Sattler

Introduction and chair Kathleen James-Chakraborty (Professor of Art History, UCD)



Friday October 10


9:30 Panel  Contemporary Mosque and Synagogue Architecture in Ireland and Germany

Chaired by Kathleen James-Chakraborty (Professor of Art History, UCD)

Sandra O’Connell Concrete Memory and Urban Matter – New Synagogues in Germany

Christian Welzbacher Orientalism vs. Innovation.  Tendencies in recent German Mosque Architecture

Michael Collins and Associates The Architecture of the Islamic Cultural Centre, Clonskeagh, Dublin



11:30 Lisa Godson Das Neue Afrika and the Irish Spiritual Empire: German and Irish architects in Africa, 1947-1966, by way of introduction to 

film screening of Build Something Modern: Ireland’s Modernist Mission in Africa


14:30 Panel The conversion and reuse of sacred buildings

Chaired by Charles Duggan (Heritage Officer, Dublin City Council)

Melanie Brown Time, Space and Place: A History of the Dublin Jewish Community Reflected Through Its Own Built Heritage

Jörg Beste Reorientations of churches – experiences from Northrhine-Westfalia

Jill Kerry New Life for Churches in Ireland



17:00 Keynote Lecture  Niall McLaughlin

Introduction and chair Christine Casey (Head of Department, History of Art and Architecture, Trinity College Dublin)


Saturday October 11

9:30 – 15:00 Coach tour of modern sacred architecture in Dublin, led by Ellen Rowley




Jörg Beste Reorientation of churches – experiences from North Rhine-Westphalia

Since 2005, the number of church buildings in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) which are no longer used for worship has grown steadily. The densely populated state has a great number of churches including extraordinary buildings from all important architectural eras – from Late Antiq- uity to modern times. More than half of the approx. 6,000 church buildings in NRW are so far reg- istered as historical monuments. The evaluation of church buildings constructed after WWII is still ongoing.

Especially during the era of early modern and post-war architecture, churches of unique quantity and quality were constructed in NRW. This region provided crucial momentum for the develop- ments in modern church architecture. Today it is mainly the buildings constructed after 1945, rep- resenting approx. 35% of all churches in NRW, which have come under enormous pressure to change.

Abandoning church buildings is a difficult process, both for the Christian community and all other citizens. It is hard for people to abandon such buildings that provided not only extraordinary archi- tecture and value as regards urban development, but created a sense of identity. Conversions or even the demolition of church buildings are an intrusion into vital social structures. An after-use changes their role as a cultural and social centre. It is therefore of great importance to preserve church buildings both for their historic and their social value as well as from an architectural point of view.

For these reasons, the quality of the process should be paramount in the upcoming and neces- sary conversion of church buildings. By now, some first experience is gained in North Rhine- Westphalia, e. g. within the “Pilot and research project on new uses for former church buildings” of the NRW Ministry for Housing, Building and Transport. Both the experience from the pilot process as well as various implemented examples can give hints on new uses of church buildings that are both socially acceptable and implemented with architectural care.


Melanie Brown Time, Space and Place: A History of the Dublin Jewish Community Reflected Through Its Own Built Heritage.

Transitory relationships between people and place are a central part of global Jewish culture. This fact is reflected in the small but significant legacy which the now tiny Jewish community of Dublin bequeaths to the built heritage of the city. Industrial premises, private houses and purpose-built synagogues have all been utilized as ritual spaces for Dublin Jews since 1663. Some have entirely disappeared from the city’s streetscape, some reveal their former or present function yet, while for others no trace remains of their use as a setting for Jewish worship and study.

The movement of Dublin Jews from near the south bank of the River Liffey to the north inner city, then south again to Portobello and South Circular Road, and finally to the suburbs, reflects economic, social and cultural changes experienced by the community. Such changes are evident in the narrow red-brick terraces and the grand neo-Palladian columns whose uniting factor is Jewish prayer.

This paper traces the history of the Dublin Jewish community, relating the narrative to the establishment of synagogues and other Jewish ritual spaces around the city. Methods employed include oral history interviews, examination of primary and secondary documents, and photography of sites of Jewish relevance.


Kathleen James Chakraborty Updating the Eternal: Abstraction in Architecture for the Religions of the Book

This lecture will introduce the major themes of the conference.  The reform of German church architecture in the 1920s focused on creating community through undivided spaces built out of modern materials.  The results had an enormous impact upon both Catholic and Protestant church architecture in many parts of the world, including Ireland, from which they were in turn exported to Africa.  They also spurred innovations in the design of first synagogues and then mosques, including some of the most prominent examples in both Germany and Ireland.  The appeal of the new approach was not universal, however.  Many postwar German churches are already redundant, and the difficulty of finding new uses for them has been exacerbated by the fact that not everyone admires their design.  In Ireland, however, the challenge has been finding appropriate uses for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Protestant churches.  Examining these complex histories illuminates the continued importance of the sacred in contemporary daily life and the myriad artistic forms that express it effectively.


Lisa Godson Building Something Modern in the Spiritual Empire (introduction to screening of Build Something Modern)

This paper will introduce ongoing research into the previously undocumented phenomenon of Irish architects who designed buildings for Africa from c.1947-1985, with a focus on work for missionary orders. One output of this was the feature documentary Build Something Modern (2011), directed by Paul Rowley and Nicky Gogan and based on an original concept and research by Lisa Godson. In their approach, architects often interpreted aspects of the ‘tropical architecture’ movement, best known through the buildings and publications of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew. The paper seeks to elucidate parallels between the supposedly totalising narratives of modernism, colonialism and missionary activity, and discourses around building and modernity in Irish missionary periodicals of the period. It also focuses on the working methods of these architects to explore ideas of exchange and circulation in relation to construction techniques and different modes of representation including drawing, photography and film. In their experimental approach, parallels can be drawn between these Irish architects with other European architects working in Africa, for example Ernst May.

Jill Kerry New Life for Churches in Ireland

Ireland’s ecclesiastical buildings are part of the backdrop and fabric of our lives. They are a legacy of the vision of those who built places of worship for themselves and their successors. The majority of churches remain in use as places of worship and are well-loved and respected in their communities. Occasionally a church or chapel is no longer required for its original purpose mainly because of demographic changes and the increased secularisation of our society. Then there is a feeling of loss and sadness which is not confined to its small congregation. However, if instead of becoming a decaying object of pity a sustainable new use can be found it may well breathe new life into the community of which it forms a part.

In 2012, the UHCT produced a publication, New Life for Churches in Ireland, which sought to raise awareness of the issues surrounding forms of re-use and stimulate further debate and discussion over what could be considered a successful new use for these buildings.

This presentation will show examples of best practice in the reuse of redundant and underused places of worship across the island of Ireland, based on cases illustrated in the book. A selection of schemes, which demonstrated a conservation-led approach and understanding of the historical importance of the buildings in their settings, ranging from the conversion of churches for domestic use to those used for cultural, commercial and community use will be presented and discussed.

Kai Krauskopf Conservatism and Radicalism in Modern Church Design in Germany

In Europe the grown role of the church building after the last world war was accompanied by advanced ideas of construction and space. Especially in Germany architects built churches with the intention to overcome traditional sacred models and to develop the space with respect to the requirements of a reformed liturgy. However, they were not designed by the exponents of the progressive International Style, but by architects who once designed churches in relation to ideas of a national conservative racial awakening. During the 1930s this building task competed with German monuments and community centers. As well as these buildings, churches were supposed to show spiritual unity with simple geometric forms and emphasized materiality. After the end of the secular Nazi state cult monumental penuriousness was called again in line with a reestablishment of religion. Churches now have eben established as a center point in new settlements for the bombed and displaced. The architectural transfer of transcendental strategies from the church to the community center and backwards could help to explain the nature of modern church architecture in Germany.


Sandra O’Connell Concrete Memory and Urban Matter – New Synagogues in Germany

In the night from 9-10 November 1938 – the infamous Kristallnacht – over 1000 Jewish synagogues across Germany and Austria were damaged or burned to the ground in an orchestrated pogrom carried out by the Nazi’s SA special forces with support from civilians. The synagogues in Dresden and in the southern German cities of Munich and Ulm were no exception. More than six decades would pass until new purpose-built synagogues took their place – the outcome of both open and invited architectural competitions and in prominent urban settings. On 9 November 2001 – 63 years on from Kristallnacht – Dresden’s new synagogue by Wandel Hoefer Lorch + Hirsch was inaugurated; Munich’s Ohel Jakob (Wandel Hoefer Lorch) followed in 2006; and Ulm’s Synagogue by Kister Scheithauer Gross Architekten in 2012.

The Jewish synagogues’ return to the heart of the urban realm has been prompted by the growth of Jewish communities in German cities, with many having relocated to Germany from Russia and Eastern Europe since the break up of the Soviet Union. It also demonstrates a conscious effort by these cities to return the Jewish synagogues to the prominent positions they once occupied in German civic life of the 19th and early 20th centuries. As such these buildings occupy not just a physical space but the more elusive realm of remembrance and retribution.

The new synagogue in Ulm is relocated as close to its historic site as possible to evoke a lost continuity, while the synagogues in Dresden and Munich set out to trigger processes of reflection in the viewer – with both form and materiality acting as potential triggers. Wandel Hoefer Lorch & Hirsch architects draw here on the writings of French Philosopher Henri Bergson who argued in his famous study, Matter and Memory, that every perception is accompanied by memory which “overlays itself upon matter”.[1]

With a broken urban presence of some sixty years, how do these new Jewish synagogues express themselves in architectural terms and have they reclaimed both urban and civic ground? The paper will explore if a new synagogue architecture has begun to emerge in Germany what precedents, if any, the architects consulted. Above all, is it possible for buildings to heal an urban wound left by historic events and return a once lost community to the heart of urban life?

[1] Bergson, Henri, Matter and Memory (1896) quoted in ‘An Introduction to the Work and Ideas of Wandel Hoefer Lorch & Hirsch’, in Winfried Nerdinger, Ed. Material Time, Wandel Hoefer Lorch & Hirsch, Berlin: Walther König, 2010, p. 9.


Carole Pollard Right and Correct – Liam McCormick’s Seven Donegal Churches

In the course of his architectural career Liam McCormick designed some twenty-five churches, scattered throughout the island of Ireland and including three in England. Seven of these churches are in his home county of Donegal, built in the landscape he knew best and within communities he understood intimately.

His hand is evident in every aspect of his Donegal churches, from the site selection to the choreography of the official opening event. His overarching precept was that the churches be ‘right and correct’ for the communities they served: right in their cost and aspiration, correct in their location and realisation.

The Donegal churches embody McCormick’s close collaboration and personal engagement with all those involved in the inception, design, budgeting, construction, and finishing. They are exceptional examples of Modern architecture placed in a landscape which at the time had little or no concept of Modernism.   Situated in remote rural locations, their Modernism embraces traditional values and interprets materials and customs in a way that may have caused surprise, but was never intended to shock.

For the most part of the fifty years or so years since these churches were completed they have served their communities well, and despite some minor alterations, are little changed. Attendance at religious ceremonies remains high in this part of Ireland where religious identity remains synonymous with ethnic and political identity. One can speculate where the next fifty years might lead, but hope that McCormick’s aspiration for appropriateness will ensure these buildings remain relevant focal points within their communities.


Ellen Rowley A Quest for Authenticity: Catholic Church architecture in 1950s and 1960s Ireland

This paper is a sketch of Irish Catholic church design during the 1950s and 1960s. Looming in the middle-ground was transnational reform, the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II, 1962-65), but the primary image was shaped by local expansion. That is, the massive demographic shifts from 1930 to 1960 in Ireland, with the growth of Dublin and the rapid development of Dublin’s suburban fringe. Within this seminal shift in Irish cultural geography, Catholic Church buildings arose as the singular monumental structures, intimidatingly large and decked out in revivalist clothing (usually Hiberno-Romanesque or hybrid classicism). By the mid-1950s, they were hateful symbols of entrenched conservatism for the majority of the Irish architectural community, representing the ongoing reticence of the patron (the Catholic Church), to embrace modernism in aspects of Dublin architecture.

The paper sets out to understand the character of this typology, directly preceding the meetings and directives of Vatican II. The fact that this landmark international event in Catholic Church history corresponded with national programmes of modernisation in other spheres of Irish culture has further enforced the image of the 1950s as introverted and staid, which is then reacted against in the 1960s. Indeed, the most meaningful form of indigenous architectural modernism emerged through Irish Catholic Church design of the 1960s, probably in correlation with liturgical developments. But what happened in the pre-conciliar period in Ireland’s new suburban parishes? And can the interesting modernist churches from this post Vatican II period take all the credit for architectural innovation?


Christian Welzbacher Mosque-building in Germany between Neomodernism and Neohistoricism

„What makes a mosque a mosque?”, the Kuwaiti Architect Omar Khattab asked – and answered: “The question is easy as it is simple: a wall correctly aligned to Mecca.“
According to the Islamic Tradition it seems easy and clear how to build mosques – even to-day, even amidst the Occident, in which Islam was imported by migrants who came here in the postwar years, settled for good and are now building their religious centres.
But is it that easy?
Overlooking the recent development, Europe in toto, and Germany in particular is facing two entirely different concepts of mosque buildings, existing side by side, next to each other: Sentimental, traditionalist, orientalistic on the one hand. Experimental, contemporary, european on the other hand. The answer to the crucial question has yet to be found: can the import of foreign forms and traditions to Europe be the adequate solution, now, that a world religion has found it’s new home here, together with the people? Or is it rather time to re-think the Mosque as a building type because it has to serve a new, a european form of islam – and with this must change? Or is it rather a re-interpretation, an adaptation of old forms we need?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s