The Relationship between Youth Identity and Spatial Perception within the Context of Religious Architecture in Northern Ireland

By Karen McPhillips and Jenny Russell.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The relationship between religious buildings and the shaping of young people’s identities is one which has received little investigation. Northern Ireland is a region which has experienced a religious divide for many years and provides an interesting setting on which to examine concepts associated with religion, youth, place, and spatial perception of architecture as an aspect of identity. Religion is an important part of life in Northern Ireland and religious buildings have played a vital role in shaping modern society by providing spaces for young people to learn about their faith and culture. This study investigated how young people from different religious backgrounds perceived certain elements of place, religion and identity, in particular, how they interpreted and negotiated the spatial layout of religious buildings and perceived the relationship between the space and the religion itself. The study endeavoured to promote the cross cultural understanding of young people's perceptions of religion and architecture and provide further clarity into the cultural and social distinctions between young teenagers of conflicting religions. An insight was gained through the analysis of non-textual material such as drawings and art-work developed from young people. This paper lays out the key findings of this study, identifying architectural concepts that are fundamental to the production of different religious places in Northern Ireland and examines the impacts of religious places, through spatial experience, and their conceptual architectural configurations, on young people’s perceptions, ideas and understanding of religion. The main religions of Northern Ireland, Catholicism and Protestantism, along with the minority religions of Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, were examined.

Keywords: Religious Architecture, Spatial Perception, Identity, Youth

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.97-114. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.194MB).

Dr. Karen McPhillips

Lecturer in Building Technology and Materials, Faculty of Art, Design and the Built Environment, School of the Built Environment, University of Ulster, Belfast, UK

My current research relates to the areas of architecture, cultural identity, political tensions and environmental behaviour in young people. In particular, my research considers the perceptions of landmark architectural forms and spaces in an attempt to understand behavioural responses. My research is primarily focused on tensioned societies such as Northern Ireland.

Dr. Jenny Russell

Lecturer in Architecture, Faculty of Art, Design and the Built Environment, School of Architecture and Design, University of Ulster, Belfast, UK

My principle research interest lies in the nature of design as a response to human need and human nature, in particular, the spatial comprehension of children and the influence that architecture can have on their behaviour. My particular concern lies with children’s perceptions of space and makes investigations into how their perceptions compare with those of adults.