Multi-ethnic London: an architectural study of religious buildings in a globalized urban culture

Al-Saud, A. 2011. Multi-ethnic London: an architectural study of religious buildings in a globalized urban culture. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Architecture and the Built Environment

TitleMulti-ethnic London: an architectural study of religious buildings in a globalized urban culture
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsAl-Saud, A.

From the first primitive huts through to modern buildings, humans have created architecture for shelter. Different cultures began to develop architectural forms to suit many kinds of social functions; then, as time passed, and civilizations grew and developed even further, more complex forms materialized to suit even more complex functions. Architecture today offers a rich form of symbolism for a specific culture in a variety of ways. Hence the key aim behind this PhD thesis is to explore how cultural identity is expressed through architecture, specifically through the presence of religious buildings within cities in our current globalized world. As a site for investigation, London is a city where many ethnicities live side-by-side and, moreover, have built their own cultural buildings. Therefore, this thesis focuses on religious buildings for immigrant communities in London so as to examine key issues of architecture and culture, while taking into account a theoretical framework that embraces concepts of multiculturalism, cultural identity and religious belief. The hypothesis behind the study is that it is the challenge to express people’s own ethnic and religious identity which prompts the erection of such vital pieces of architecture.

The analysis and structure for the thesis is divided into four parts. The first part discusses in general the meanings and concepts that will be explored, beginning with a review of the crucial concept of cultural identity. The second part explores a selection of buildings within a number of multi-ethnic communities in and around London to develop the methodology for subsequent analysis. The third part of the thesis consists of a couple of related chapters. The first explores the history of the Southall area in west London, along with the composition of its current ethnic communities and their patterns of religious beliefs and ritual. The following chapter examines the architecture of a number of case studies of religious building for the different immigrant communities in Southall, so as to understand the way in which these buildings serve the local community. There is also an attempt to review their specific planning history within the local council’s regulatory policies over the last few decades.

This PhD thesis demonstrates not only the implications of culturally expressive architecture within immigrant communities in global cities, but also the ways in which these communities are able to use these religious buildings to demonstrate ideas of identity, assimilation and architectural symbolism. The research methodology is based squarely on using qualitative techniques to collect data from a wide range of sources which relate to the selected case studies. The overall aim is to examine the various case studies, and especially the religious buildings of Southall, to reveal the wider cultural and architectural meanings of the extremely broad variety of multi-ethnic buildings that we know are increasingly found in globalized cities like London.

PublisherUniversity of Westminster
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