Designing a place of worship is the most personal and challenging exercise an architect can go through. The challenge resides in the first place, in the capacity to create a holy place, a place where believers can be detached from worldly life and face God; and on the second, in the need of continuity and reutilization of Architectural symbols that are culturally and historically rooted in religious meanings. The site offers the difficulty of dealing with the Qibla direction since it is eschew with it. The design attempts to construct a scenario for the arrival and departure of the believer to and from the mosque.
A promenade for the worshiper that starts from the sidewalk to slowly and gently rise towards the back of the mosque and take a complete turn to face the entrance of the mosque. This brief physical effort of going up, determines a certain procession, a rising up to the mosque, not so unfamiliar with an architecture, which serves to establish an authority. The entrance is not anymore the typical doorway where people are forced to squeeze themselves through; it is replaced by six high fin like wooden panels. Once past the wooden doors and within the high, the worshiper is greeted by a hallway where he can take off his shoes. The promenade offers no view as to what the mosque holds within its high walls, so an element of surprise is definitely intended. A very transparent monolithic space constitutes the main prayer hall and is accessed directly from the shoe rack hallway. In fact the worshiper is quickly captured within this space, without any actual introduction.
The preamble to the mosque happened outside, starting from the sidewalk. The experience of the mosque thus takes over the whole site, even if its actual physical presence occupies just about 220m2 of the land. The main prayer hall opens to an external reflective pool, clearly visible through a large glazed Qibla wall window. The Mihrab is a very simple wooden box, hanging onto this glazed elevation, seemingly floating over the black water of the pool. The relationship between the believer and the outside world is completely limited to selected natural elements (light, rain, water, wind…). The view towards the city (buildings, streets, etc.) is veiled by the high walls. The worshiper is thus silently isolated from the worldly elements and left to practice his beliefs. Having completed his prayer and duties, the worshiper proceeds to leave the premises and get back to his daily life.
The mosque gradually leads the way. On his way out, hints of his experience within the mosque are present in the form of the water wall which is linked to the reflective pool, or even the vertical slit which slices the building vertically and ends with the Muezzin speaker phone. The materials used in the making and finishing of this Mosque space are all natural. The engraved gray stones wraps the building from within and from without and sits on a polished, black granite base. The perimeter walls which frame the mosque are dissolved into the rich texture of Quranic verses engraved into the grey stone. The worshiper is thus literally surrounded by his faith. In addition to the wood of the back elevation, the water of the pool…all fall within the lexicon of natural living materials, which have, as any human, life, they interact with outside elements, fight, fail, survive…They live. The mosque becomes itself a metaphor of the Muslim worshiper.
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