Developed by founder and architect Suzanne Morgan, Sacred Space International (SSI) is the third in a progression of organizations that started in the year 2000. This evolution began from humble beginnings with an interfaith prayer space in downtown Chicago called The Upper Room where any religious group could come to pray. Suzanne hoped to find a way to attract Muslims, who needed to pray five times a day; however, the tragic events of September 11, 2001 instilled fear in the general public and the space lost attendance. Prompted by this tragic event, and the subsequent climate of religious and cultural misunderstanding and fear, Suzanne created a new space where people could better understand other faith traditions. Launched in 2002, this became the Center for Religious Architecture and was later renamed Sacred Space International. SSI is expanding its programmatic reach nationally and internationally to explore the architectural meaning of sacred space in our increasingly global society.
SSI encourages interfaith dialogue by sharing sacred spaces across faith traditions. By bringing sacred spaces to light for an expanded public audience, SSI affirms the diversity of these traditions. Spaces become sacred through the values they hold for people and their communities. Sharing this value can improve cultural understanding while building trust.
At SSI, we share a vision of a society where there is a greater understanding and appreciation of the value, diversity and richness of all religions, and of the architectural spaces where faith is expressed. Through the programs and resources that we provide, we strive to make a difference in the fostering of mutual respect, and a commitment to the common good.
Shared values are at the heart of interfaith learning and cooperation. People from different religious and moral perspectives often have strong and divergent views about faith, architecture and worship. We encourage and depend on diverse perspectives and traditions. Our values are centered around our commitment to learning, to serving others, and protecting religious architecture.
Founder of Sacred Space International, Suzanne Morgan, is an architect and graduate of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. In 1999, she opened the Upper Room, an interfaith prayer space in Chicago’s financial district. Stunned by the events of 9/11, she decided to address the need for religious literacy by opening SSI to educate the public about the world’s religions through the nonverbal and universal medium of architecture.
- Fetullah Gulen Award, Recipient, The Niagara Foundation, 2015
- For the use of religious architecture for world peace
- Inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr.
- International College of Ministers and Laity, 2014
- Recognition from the Parliament of the World’s Religions, 2013
- For “unwavering commitment to CPWR and service as a Sacred Space Ambassador”
- Contracted WGBH (Boston, MA), for a national outreach program of the NPR series, God in America, 2008
- Selected 8 cities in the United States and created self-guided Sacred Spaces Tours about the religious architecture within each city
- Participant, Panel on Mega Churches Around the World, BBC World Service, 2005