First national survey of Buddhist buildings in England
On Thu, 30 January, 2014 - 11:25
For the first time, England’s Buddhist buildings are the subject of a national survey, as heritage conservation body English Heritage undertakes research in partnership with the Centre for Religion and Public Life at the University of Leeds.
It’s heartening to see picture of Triratna’s London Buddhist Centre on the ‘Building Buddhism’ project blog, as well as a list of interesting questions the researchers are asking themselves, such as, “Do Buddhist buildings function in the same way as other faith buildings? Are they controversial, and if not, why not?”
English Heritage is more used to caring for cathedrals, as well as secular historic buildings, but this online survey is part of a larger research consultation project helping them understand faith places belonging to “growing religious groups” in England.
As Diana Evans, their Head of Places of Worship Advice explains, “The aim is to explore the function, significance and meaning of buildings for various Buddhist communities in England, to help us understand Buddhist faith places better, as part of understanding the practicalities of caring for historic sites.”
What constitutes a ‘Buddhist building’ for the survey? University of Leeds’ Caroline Starkey says, “We want to be as inclusive as possible, 1) to help refine the term ‘Buddhist building’ in the English context, and 2) so we can get a good picture of the ‘landscape’ of Buddhism in England. ‘Buddhist buildings’ range from residential houses where small groups might meet to large monastic complexes. A ‘Buddhist building’ for our purposes might also include a notable monument, or indeed, a school.”
Generally, buildings which qualify for the survey have in common a public community function: advertised places where a group of people, large or small, meet to engage in Buddhist practice; eg, meditation, talks or communal activity.
Caroline continues, “We are paying particular attention to public buildings, in England [as opposed to residential houses where groups might meet, or Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland] as this reflects English Heritage’s geographical remit and priorities in terms of listing and protection. The project will finish by September 2014.”
The survey should only be filled in once per building, by someone with knowledge of the history of the building and its current use. To avoid duplication, if you know of a public Buddhist building of potentially historic interest, please do not fill it in yourself but forward this article to their staff or notify the researchers via the blog.
Visit the survey (15-20 minutes, only one entry per building). Visit the project’s blog.