Interfaith Design

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The AIA Interfaith Design (ID) Knowledge Community encourages and supports excellence in the design of worship spaces and their accoutrements. Interfaith Design is an association of professionals whose primary interest is religious facilities in a broad array of traditions. We value an interfaith forum for the exchange of ideas relating to religion, art, and architecture. Join us!

2019 Elbert M. Conover Award

Congratulations to our 2019 Conover awardee, A. Robert Jaeger, President of Partners for Sacred Places! 

Case Study: Omaha’s Tri-Faith Commons Celebrates Diversity and Unity

By Katherine B. Ball AIA posted 10-16-2019 16:57

Interfaith Design’s Knowledge Resources Committee is pleased to present a  series of monthly case studies based on selected award winners from the annual Faith and Form/Interfaith Design International Religious Art and Architecture Design Awards. Please enjoy and share!

We live in a time of intense polarization. Partisan divides are deep, many of us live in neighborhoods where we are surrounded by like-minded people, and social media makes it easy for us to seek out opinions that match our own. We seem to have lost the ability to disagree agreeably, and we are increasingly at risk of becoming isolated within the limited social circles of those who look, believe, and act exactly as we do.

The Tri-Faith Initiative intends to shift this paradigm. Based in Omaha, Nebraska, this interfaith organization – dedicated to religious pluralism – encourages diversity, celebrates co-existence, and provides a place for meaningful interaction among members of all faiths. The Tri-Faith Commons, which is the Tri-Faith Initiative’s 35-acre physical campus, is nearing completion and houses a synagogue completed in 2013, a mosque and Islamic Center completed in 2017, a church completed in 2019, and the Tri-Faith Center which is anticipated to be completed in 2020.  People of all faiths are welcome on the campus, which hosts educational programming such as lectures, family events, interfaith social gatherings, and other opportunities for interaction and dialogue.

Templ_IsraelOmaha_Tom_Kessler_Photograhy_18.jpg Temple Israel, photo credit Tom Kessler

Temple Israel, designed by Finegold Alexander Architects of Boston, MA won a 2018 Faith and Form Honor Award. The three-part, 60,000 SF project includes a House of Worship, a House of Assembly, and a House of Study in separate volumes which share a common architectural language of Jerusalem stone, glass, and white metal panel. The 900-seat assembly space features layers of transparency and solidity, capturing framed views and natural light using a stone wall and both clear and translucent glass. The House of Worship acts as a lantern at night; all three temple buildings are connected by a courtyard which invites reflection and gathering.

TempleIsraelOmaha_Tom_Kessler_Photograhy_02.jpg Temple Israel, photo credit Tom Kessler

AMI_SlaggieArchitectsInc1.jpgAmerican Muslim Institute, photo credit Slaggie Architects Inc.

The American Muslim Institute, which houses a mosque with a contemporary form and an exterior that draws from the materials palette and scale of its neighbors, was designed by Slaggie Architects Inc. of Kansas City, MO and Omaha, NE. The 20,000 SF building includes spaces for worship, gathering, education, and recreation. A domed skylight, contemporary minaret, and graceful swooping roofline reinterpret traditional mosque forms in a midwestern vernacular. The materials palette of glass, metal, and stone roots the building within its campus, while the intricate latticework at the upper levels echoes the traditional mashrabiya element of Arabic architecture.

AMISlaggieArchitects3.jpg American Muslim Institute, photo credit Slaggie Architects Inc.

P_190731_N7_0_33x.jpg Countryside Community Church, photo credit Corey Gaffer Photography

Countryside Community Church, part of the United Church of Christ, occupies a 65,000 SF building which includes a U-shaped sanctuary, classrooms, music rooms, meeting rooms, and a coffee shop. Designed by Alley Poyner Macchietto of Omaha, NE and HGA of Minneapolis, MN, the church features custom terra cotta tiles on the long, low form at the entry level and metal panel-clad angled roof forms above inspired by the connection between the earth and sky. The footprint takes advantage of the site’s steep grade to include two stories and the expansive sanctuary volume behind the single-story entry level, maintaining a neighborly scale while accommodating a large building program.


 Countryside Community Church, photo credit Corey Gaffer Photography

TriFaith_TACKarchitects.jpg Tri-Faith Center, photo credit TACKarchitects

The fourth campus building, the Tri-Faith Center designed by TACKarchitects of Omaha, NE, will incorporate the stone, metal panel, and glass materials palette found across of the campus. Three massive stone walls, representing the three Abrahamic faiths of the campus, combine and overlap to anchor a façade that implies strength, solidity, and permanence, with slots between each to allow light inside. The Center will provide collaboration, social, educational, and conference space to support the Tri-Faith Commons and its programs.

TriFaith_TACKarchitects2.jpg Tri-Faith Center, image credit TACKarchitects

As part of the master plan designed by HGA and TENxTEN Landscape Architecture and Urbanism, the campus is connected by a quarter-mile long circular pedestrian bridge, dubbed “Abraham’s Circle” in celebration of the three Abrahamic faiths who share the site. The bridge knits the campus together physically and metaphorically, supporting the overarching goal of inter-religious collaboration and cooperation among all faiths. In a world that is so often marked by division and discord, the Tri-Faith Commons is perhaps the first campus of this kind, and will serve as a model for unity, understanding, and empathy for all.

TriFaith.jpgTri-Faith Commons Campus Plan, image credit TACKarchitects