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Spaces of Ritual

Spaces of ritual are not necessarily religious must they most often are. I like to think of buildings as containers for ritual – on the outside they communicate their function to passer-by through form, decoration, lettering and outright presence. On the inside its most often art that communicates the messages but it is also the way spaces are arranged, their sequence, their hierarchy and in some cases their sheer size.

Spaces of ritual are shaped by how human beings carry out rituals and how they move through space but spaces also shape how people carry out ritual and how they move between them.


I first understood this reciprocal relationship when reading Henri Lefebvre’s Production of Space and it has fascinated me ever since. I am interested in 20th C spaces of ritual and how they change as a result of social and political factors. Ursula de Jong and I have been analysing how Australian churches (mostly by Italian architects) changed as a result of Vatican II and how they integrate space, changing ritual, memory and artistic production. I have also done research on War Veterans’ Associations (Case dei Mutilati) in Italy – this will be a book chapter in an upcoming book entitled: The Afterlife of Fascism.

Spaces of Ritual beforr and after Vatican II. St. Patrick's, Melbourne; St. Patrick's Parramatta & St. Anthony's Marfield. Photographs by Ursula de Jong

Casa Madre dei Mutilati in Rome. Photograph by Flavia Marcello

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