As many entries in this portal suggest, multi-faith prayer rooms are not merely viewed as a “good idea” or an aspiration for a heterogeneous and plural society, but are in many cases demanded of public institutions. Some, including prisons, face mandates to accommodate diverse religious practice. In other settings, including international airports, setting aside a place for prayer has become so broadly viewed as a normal or conventional service or public utility that not providing some kind of space comes to seem almost unthinkable.
Perhaps it is not surprising that there is a small but growing literature about how to build a good multi-faith space. This literature provides guidelines and suggestions for institutions embarking on this task. They elaborate “best practices” for various issues, including how to take multiple constituents’ or clients’ needs into consideration. Such literature signals not only a growing professionalization of a field of design, but also a broader set of settings, including conferences and meetings where architects, scholars, and practitioners gather to consider the design of prayer.
It is important to consider how such documents, conferences, and professionals are at work to shape and develop a shared set of standards for how multi-faith prayer can (and perhaps should) be best contained within the spaces that are built for this use. Certainly, private interests and groups—religious and otherwise—will continue to create buildings and spaces for multi-faith and interfaith prayer that evoke local concerns, aspirations, and hopes. Yet such buildings take shape within a landscape where multi-faith prayer rooms are becoming both common and more similar. What will the consequences be for the practices of prayer? These questions will likely confront us unexpectedly—perhaps the next time we find ourselves standing in line at security, searching for a restroom at the exhibition hall, or taking a campus tour.