Rites of Intent: The Participatory Dimension of the City

Nicholas Temple

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper disseminates from a keynote lecture I delivered at an international conference, Cityscapes in History: Creating the Urban Experience, held at the Centre for Advanced Studies at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich in July 2010. The theme of the paper, on architecture and ritual, was in response to a specific request by the conference organisers, and is based on my earlier research interests, particularly relating to pilgrimage and conversion during the period of Early Christianity. This chapter, however, brings this background historical knowledge of architecture and ritual to the contemporary situation, arguing that we have much to learn from the ancient and medieval worlds. Highlighting particular contemporary examples, I argue that the absence of conspicuous ritualized spaces in our cities is largely the result of architects no longer being able to understand certain kinds of spatial language that can facilitate mediation between built form and modes of corporate participation – whether formal or informal. At the same time, the chapter highlights how the use of such terms as ‘ritualised space’ in contemporary architectural discourse is problematic, given that ritual – as an ‘obligatory’ form of participation - is assumed by many to conflict with the expectations of unhindered freedom that has become the mantra of much contemporary architecture. This chapter challenges this preconception by arguing that notions of ritual space in the contemporary world are at one level materially different from those of the past, given the absence of systems of politico/religious hierarchy and authority. At the same time, however, implicit in the everyday events of contemporary urban life is the raw material of richer forms of repeated action than those simply of routine. The cases presented here reveal how a hermeneutical perspective of the historic past provides a productive and creative channel for reinterpreting ritual in the contemporary city.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Cityscapes in History
Subtitle of host publicationCreating the Urban Experience
EditorsKatrina Gulliver, Heléna Tóth
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781315572192
ISBN (Print)9781409439592, 9781138703667
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2014


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