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Mellon Forum: ‘Faith Shines Equal’ / Airport Sublime

October 2, 2023 · 12:00 pm1:30 pm · School of Architecture and Zoom

Courtney Bender, Columbia; Babak Manouchehrifar, Stewart Fellow at the Humanities Council and Princeton School of Public and International Affairs Fellow

The major 1950’s expansion of New York International Airport (JFK) by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey included space for free-standing Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish chapels. The Tri-Faith Chapel Plaza the first of its kind and the origin of the now ubiquitous airport prayer rooms, was publicly feted as a project of American religious cooperation and religious freedom. But in truth it was in a top-down initiative of the secular planners and architects that confounded the plaza’s religious partners. This less familiar and more surprising history invites several distinctive and important ways to understand the challenges of placing religion in modern America. While the tri-faith chapel’s creation calls new attention to the exclusionary principles at work in modern conceptions American religious pluralism, I argue that viewing the plaza as a component of the larger airport plan allows us to also catch a glimpse of a longstanding modernist desire to build an American landscape that would support a spiritual citizenry released from “architectural” religion altogether.

This is a hybrid event. Attend in person at the School of Architecture, or register for the zoom webinar.

The Fall 2023 Mellon Forum on the Urban Environment is kindly sponsored by the Mellon Foundation and the Princeton University Humanities Council, Program in Latin American Studies, Center for Collaborative History, Departments of Art & Archaeology and English, HMEI, PIIRS, SPIA, and the School of Architecture.

Mellon Forum events are free and open to the public. Boxed lunches are available while supplies last.

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