6 Modern Mosques in the Middle East and Beyond

Dubai, UAE

Throughout the history of Islamic architecture, the mosque has been a space for the community. With its design of the Al Warqa’a mosque, architectural firm Ibda moved away from the Turkish typology of added-on domes and minarets. Instead, Al Warqa’a mosque focuses on social aspects, recalling the spatial simplicity of the earliest Arabian mosques that had open-sky courtyards with rooms wrapped around them. Ibda used the idea to create a prayer hall that can be accessed from three sides of the riwaq (hallway) surrounding it. The mosque becomes both an oasis of peace drawing in the faithful and a social hub for the community to congregate.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Asas Omrania went bold with its design for the KAFD mosque, the spiritual lynchpin of Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District. Its multifaceted shell references the naturally occurring desert rose crystals of Saudi Arabia, which bloom around shallow salt basins. In a place where summer temperatures can easily reach 50°C, the public realm is submerged indoors. Set over three levels, the 6 000 sqm mosque has a dazzling interior, featuring a column-free prayer hall bathed in filtered natural light and a floating mezzanine. Tree-lined and shaded walkways link to the KAPD masterplan designed by Henning Larsen.

Moukhtara, Lebanon

Architects today are designing mosques that move away from pastiche representations of Islamic architecture. Instead, they celebrate more universal notions of Islamic space to establish urban connections with the surroundings. The relatively small Amir Shakib mosque in Moukhtara, Lebanon, is a renovation of an older structure next to an 18th century palace. Designed by L.E.FT Architects, the mosque welcomes the community through a civic plaza in front. Its contemporary minaret, made of thin white steel louvres, partially covers the existing building. It has “Allah” written at the top and “insan” (“human”) inscribed at the bottom. In it, the faithful can see themselves in relation to God, while the louvres, which disappear depending on the angle of vision, signify the impermanence of life.

Dhaka, Bangladesh

After the death of her grandmother, who donated the land for this mosque but could not build it in her lifetime, Marina Tabassum took it upon herself to raise funds for, design, and build the Bait ur Rouf mosque. Located in a dense Dhaka neighbourhood, this modestly scaled building was a winner at the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Exposed terracotta brick walls echo the sultanate architecture of the subcontinent’s past; at a functional level, they keep the interiors well ventilated, while sunlight streams in through skylights and cleverly designed light wells at the four corners.

Büyükçekmece, Turkey

Landscape is an overarching influence on this mosque near Istanbul – both the terrain, and the idea of social and cultural landscapes. The stone and concrete mosque by Emre Arolat Architects connects with its site through a series of shallow steps cutting into the hill. Worshippers move up and down the hill, through the landscape and into the cave-like prayer hall, insulated from the hubbub of the nearby highway and gated community by tall stone walls. It recalls the elemental aspects of worship, of nature juxtaposed against man.

Rijeka, Croatia

The Islamic center in Zamet, Rijeka, Croatia.

The first mosque in five centuries to be built on the shores of the Adriatic has been described as one of the most beautiful religious buildings in Europe. Its conceptual design came from the Croatian sculptor Dušan Džamonja, who died before the complex was inaugurated in 2013. Architects Darko Vlahović and Branko Vučinović brought his ideas to life. Water, light, pattern, and geometry come to play in a space that celebrates tolerance and diversity. The dome is fragmented into six spherical sections, inspired by Ottoman mosques, with crescent-shaped skylights, while a sculpturesque 23m high minaret makes quite an impact.

Originally printed in the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of Vogue Man Arabia. Words by Shalaka Paradkar.

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