The House of One House for three Faiths
BERLIN – After officials in the German capital offered his parish a prime site to build a new house of worship, the Rev. Gregor Hohberg had a kumbaya moment. Why not transform a city stained by the Nazi era into a place of spiritual healing by building a church, a mosque and a synagogue all under one roof? During a time of global religious strife, a unifying project involving Christians, Muslims and Jews, the Protestant pastor reasoned, would reverberate beyond Berlin’s borders. They would call it the House of One. Berlin thinks it is making religious history as Muslims, Jews and Christians join hands to build a place where they can all worship. The House of One, as it is being called, will be a synagogue, a church and a mosque under one roof. An architecture competition has been held and the winner chosen. The striking design is for a brick building with a tall, square central tower. Off the courtyard below will be the houses of worship for the three faiths - the synagogue, the church and the mosque. It is to occupy a prominent site - Petriplatz - in the heart of Berlin. The location is highly significant, according to one of the three religious leaders involved, Rabbi Tovia Ben Chorin.
"From my Jewish point of view the city where Jewish suffering was planned is now the city where a centre is being built by the three monotheistic religions which shaped European culture" he said. Can they get on? "We can. That there are people within each group who can’t is our problem but you have to start somewhere and that’s what we are doing." The imam involved, Kadir Sanci, sees the House of One as “a sign, a signal to the world that the great majority of Muslims are peaceful and not violent”. It’s also, he says, a place where different cultures can learn from each other.
Each of the three areas in the House will be the same size, but of a different shape, architect Wilfried Kuehn points out. ”Each of the singular spaces is designed according to the religious needs, the particularities of each faith" he says. "There are for instance two levels in the mosque and the synagogue but there’s only one level in the church. There will be an organ in the church. There are places to wash feet in the mosque." He and his team of architects researched designs for the three types of worshipping place and found more similarities than expected.