Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pray-O-Mat" Is UK's First

The UK's first "PRAY-O-MAT" has been installed on the grounds of The University of Manchester, home of a large, three-year research project on Multi-Faith Spaces.

Created by German artist Oliver Sturm, the specially converted photo booth gives Manchester's citizens on the go somewhere to pray.

The free to use machine offers over 300 pre-recorded prayers and incantations in 65 different languages, via a touch screen.

Choices include "Our Father" in German, English, 'American' or Low German; Buddhist and Islamic benedictions; Aborigine devotional songs; and even the solemn chanting of an orthodox Jewish congregation.

Many of the prayers were collected by Sturm, with some taken from radio archives.

The machine is situated in the entrance to St Peter's House, Oxford Road, and anyone is welcome to have a try.

The conversion of the German “Gebetomat” into an English “Pray-o-mat” was partly supported by the Goethe-Institut, London.

The research project, on whose initiative the prayer machine came to Manchester, is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The team have visited almost 250 multi-faith spaces in the UK and abroad.

Charting the emergence and scope of the spaces has been difficult because many are concealed from public view, the team estimate over fifteen hundred exist in the UK.

The project is lead by Dr Ralf Brand, Senior Lecturer in Architectural Studies at the Manchester Architecture Research Centre (MARC).

He said: "Though the Pray-o-mat is a bit tongue-in-cheek, there is a serious message to what we're doing.

"Successful multi-faith spaces do not need to be flashy or expensive. In many places a small, clean and largely unadorned space can serve adequately.”

Team member, Dr Chris Hewson, also from MARC, added: “On the other hand, it is clear that a universal, off-the-shelf space can never adequately serve locally specific purposes.

"While MFS - and multi-faith issues in general - have received attention from a theological perspective, less is known around practical themes, such as design, architecture and ornamentation. “

The other members of the team are Revd Dr Terry Biddington, Chaplaincy to Higher Education in Manchester, and Dr Andrew Crompton, Senior Lecturer, Liverpool School of Architecture.

Key project findings are communicated through academic publications but also through a professionally curated touring exhibition which is available upon request.
Website of the Gebetomat / Pray-o-mat (in German):

Website of the research project:

Website of the project exhibition:

Contacts and sources: 
Mike Addelman
University of Manchester

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