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Faith Zone looks at divine new life in post-Dome future


The architect of a planned £20 million multi-faith visitor centre has poured cold water on rumours that the Faith Zone in the Millennium Dome is destined for reincarnation at the Asha Centre in Stanmore, west London.

Sources close to the Asha Foundation, which is behind the new centre, told the aj that the foundation is considering taking on the zone. But the centre's designer Pankaj Patel, partner in Patel Taylor Architects, dismissed the suggestion, saying that the design of the Asha Centre is not compatible with the Faith Zone, designed by Eva Jiricna Architects and Jasper Jacobs Architects.

However, Zerbanoo Gifford, the founding director and client of the Asha Centre, suggested that the exhibits in the Faith Zone could indeed be incorporated into its plans after the Dome closes at the end of the year.

'It would be good if we could have it,' Gifford said. 'There will be a faith gallery at the Asha Centre and we have the nine major religions on board.' These are Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, the Baha'i faith, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Taoism - the Faith Zone features an exhibition which already represents many of these religions. But Gifford said she did not know if the trustees were giving serious consideration to the possibility.

The Asha Centre is being funded by £10 million from the National Lottery's Millennium Commission, which the Asha Foundation must match through its own fundraising. As a result, Gifford said that it could not afford to pay for the zone. With only one of the five bids being considered to take over the Dome planning to retain any of the zones, their future is uncertain. The New Millennium Experience Company owns the majority of the zones but refused to comment on the future of the Faith Zone during the competition to resolve the Dome's future use - to be finalised this summer. A group of Christian charities, Laing Family Trusts, provided half the funds for the zone and the Hinduja Foundation and Jerusalem Trust were among the other donors.

Outline planning permission on the Asha site has already been granted. Aside from the faith gallery, the centre will also feature a shared heritage museum, a garden for quiet meditation, a healthy living centre, areas for women and children, a theatre, and a multi-purpose hall for 1000 people.

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