Theology and Built Environment Colloquium

Spatial ArtsA Theology and the Built Environment Colloquium was established in 2001 by the University of St. Andrews, in partnership with Calvin College, Michigan, and was jointly chaired by Dr. Murray Rae of the University of Otago, New Zealand, and Professor Alan Torrance of the University of St. Andrews.

This colloquium now works under the aegis of Duke University partnering with Calvin College, and is being chaired by Dr Murray Rae of the University of Otago, Dunedin. Architects, theologians, philosophers, and art historians, from the UK, the USA, Canada, France, and New Zealand have been gathering to engage in a conversation between theology and the spatial arts.

For the latest information, see Theology and the Spatial Arts.

What are the 'spatial arts'?

The term 'spatial arts' refers to all those arts that contribute to the formation of our built environment, to the shaping of public and private space. They include, of course, architecture, engineering and urban planning-those endeavours concerned directly with the construction of buildings, roads, bridges etc., and their arrangement and combination in cities and towns. But they include too, a range of other arts that similarly shape our experience of the spaces we inhabit; sculpture, interior design, furniture design and so on. So, while we are concerned with something defined clearly enough as the built environment - the shaping of space for the facilitation of our human projects - the range of arts involved in the shaping of space is very broad indeed.

Aims of the project

Spatial ArtsThe project does not aim to give good advice to artists, nor does it seek to impose upon them an obligation to fall in line with its view of the truth. It hopes rather to benefit from the conversation with the arts by discovering new ways of understanding and expressing its own particular subject matter.

It seeks to encourage research and publication in theology and the spatial arts. Planning is currently underway for a series of publications on the themes of 'Space,' 'City,' and 'Sanctuary,' each with the subtitle, 'Explorations in Theology and the Spatial Arts'.

Application of the 'forms' of engagement to the spatial arts

Jeremy Begbie identifies above a range of forms of 'theology through the arts'. Each of these may be applied to the spatial arts.

  1. Where the arts directly engage theological matters.
  2. Where there is attention to the particular ways in which an art-form is structured or operates, and the implications of this for theology.
  3. Where the arts heighten our sensibility to the theological dimensions of cultural movements.
  4. Where the arts heighten our sensibility to theological dimensions of human life and practice.
  5. Where the second-order disciplines of the arts inform or enrich theology.
  6. Where the arts provide a 'negative' print of theological truth.
  7. Where the arts shape or form the theologian.

For more about how these relate specifically to the spatial arts, see Theology and the Spatial Arts.

Some research themes arising from the first colloquium

  • Spatial ArtsSpatiality
  • Salvation and Shalom
  • Humanity and its Environment
  • Cities
  • How do space and place shape us?
  • Sacred space
  • Immanence and transcendence
  • Exploration of a doctrinal field
  • Memory and Tradition
  • Epistemology

For more details on these themes and papers which addressed them, see Theology and the Spatial Arts.

The future

It is hoped that in the long term there will be several monographs arising from this research project. The medium term goal, however, is to publish a collection of essays to be edited by Murray Rae and Alan Torrance.