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Forew ord 6 King Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, M orocco 96

R estoration and Extension o f Sidi M ’Sadak Mosque,
IN TR O D U C TIO N Zarzis, Tunisia 98
Background Study 8 Zawiya o f Sidi Abdel Kader, Tunis, Tunisia 99
A Critical M ethodology for Discussing the
C ontem porary M osque 12 CASE STUDY IV: Turkey
Contem porary M osque Architecture in Turkey 100
CASE STUDY I: Saudi Arabia T he Parliament Mosque, Ankara 104
Innovation and Tradition in Saudi Mosque Design 20 Kocatepe Mosque, Ankara 108
T he P rophet’s Holy Mosque, Madinah 24 Kinali Island Mosque, Istanbul 112
T he Mosque at King Khaled International Airport, Etimesgut Armed Forces Mosque 114
R iyad h 38 TEK Mosque, Golbasi, Ankara 116
Qasr al-H okm Mosque, Riyadh 42
Introduction to the W ork of Abdel W ahed El-Wakil 46 CASE STUDY V: Iran
T he Island Mosque, Jeddah 47 O n the Com position o f Islamic Architecture:
Corniche Mosque, Jeddah 50 The Case of Iran 118
Al-Ruwais Mosque, Jeddah 52 A l-M ahm oud Mosque, Isfahan 124
King Saud Mosque, Jeddah 54 A ’zam Mosque, G hom 127
Al-Qiblatain Mosque, M adinah 60 Al-Ghadir Mosque, T ehran 128
Quba Mosque, Madinah 64 Imam Hossein Mosque, Shiraz 130
Al-Miqat Mosque, Madinah 68 Z endew an Hosseinieh, Naine 132
Mosques at Abha and Riyadh 72 Velayat R o u d Mosque, Mazandaran 134
Sammatch Mosque, Bandar-Lengueh 138
CASE STUDY II: Egypt Kaka Mosque, Bandar-Kong 142
Layers o f Influences in Contem porary Egyptian Mosques 74
N ew Gourna Mosque, Luxor 78 CASE STUDY VI: The West
Moustafa M ahm oud Mosque, Cairo 80 Symbolism and Context: T he N ew Dilemma 144
International Garden Mosque, Alexandria 81 The Islamic Center, Washington D C 146
Gamal Abdul Nasser Mosque, Cairo 82 T he N ew Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre in R o m e 150
Mosque o f Al-Zahra, Cairo 83 Dar al-Islam, Abiquiu, N ew Mexico 154
Masjid el Sayyida Safiyyah, Cairo 86 Dar al-Hijrah, Falls Church, Virginia 160
Masjid Salah al-Din, Cairo 87 Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, R e g en t’s Park,
London 164
CASE STUDY III: The Maghreb A1 Rashid Mosque, Edm onton, Alberta 168
The Maghreb: Heritage and Renew al 88
Lalla Soukaina Mosque, Rabat, M orocco 92 Glossary 170
Prince Abdallah al-Saud Mosque and Library Complex, Bibliography 172
Casablanca, M orocco 93 Index 173

by I s m a i l S f.r a g f i .d i n

This b o o k is an eclectic collection o f essays, project reviews and m osque architecture are explained here and in a com prehensive
personal perspectives ab ou t a com plex and challenging subject: the glossary at the end o f the book. A second intro du ctory essay sets
architecture o f the co n tem po rary m osque. T h e subject is com plex o ut a fram ew ork and critical approach to the architecture o f the
because it involves an understanding o f the societal co n text in co ntem po rary m osque. This is in ten d ed to provide a conceptual
w hich the building is situated. It is also the m ost challenging matrix into w hich the individual project can be mapped, to provide
building type for any architect practising in the M uslim w orld co ntex t w hile also advocating a m ulti-layered critique to enrich
today. N o o ther building is so charged w ith symbolism, so o u r understanding o f the significance o f the buildings examined.
h e m m e d in by established architectural co n ven tio n , and so likely T h e b o o k is th en divided according to broad national or geo­
to be scrutinised in the m inutest detail by friend and critic alike. graphic areas, th o u g h the emphasis w ithin each section is u p on
A bove all it is a building that has to answer the spiritual as well as specific examples and case studies. Individual buildings are singled
the functional needs o f a com m unity, w hile also m aking an o ut for special coverage in order to reinforce particular points.
elo q u en t statem ent ab o ut that com m u n ity . T hus the ‘brow sers’ will be able to access inform ation as effectively
Realising the com plexity o f the subject, and the diversity o f the as those w h o wish to read the volum e from cover to cover.
cultural and architectural expressions o f the societies o f the T h e geographic regions covered include Saudi Arabia, Egypt,
M uslim w orld, this b o o k does n o t seek to be historically or g eo­ the M aghreb, T u rk e y and Iran. Inevitably, given the strong views
graphically com prehensive. (An excellent start has already b een on the influence o f the W est on these societies, it makes sense to
made at this by M artin Frishman and H assan-U ddin K h an .)1 N o r is ro u n d off the b o o k w ith a discussion o f a few examples o f mosques
it in tend ed to be encyclopedic in coverage. R a th e r it presents a built in the W est.
n u m b e r o f con tem p o rary mosques, in ten d ed to provide a palimps­ In Architecture of the Contemporary Mosque there is no unanim ity
est for interested scholars and to engage the attention o f practising o f views am ong the authors, n o r is there any effort to hom ogenise
architects and students. their differences. U ltim ately, the buildings will speak m ost elo­
In keeping w ith this aim, Architecture of the Contemporary Mosque quently to the reader in their o w n inimitable way.
opens w ith a backg ro u n d study and in tro d u c tio n w hich places the
subject in its historical context, offering a b rief synopsis o f the dev­ 1 M artin Frishman and H asan-Uddin Khan (eds), The Mosque: History,
elopment o f the mosque, its forms, styles and place in the urban fabric. Architectural Development and Regional Diversity, Thames and H udson
T h e m any Islamic terms w hich will be new to those unfamiliar w ith (London), 1994.

The universal symbolism of the mosque: The Mosque and Islamic

Cultural Centre, Regent’s Park, London, by Sir Fredrick Gibberd


by I sm a il S e r a g e ld im

T h e architectural expression o f M uslim societies has ten ded to d om inated by the M osque o f M u h a m m a d ‘Ali and its minarets that
function as a subtle overlay on existing physical realities and cul­ identify the skyline o f the city.
tural traditions. This has led to a w ide array o f stylistic expressions T h e residences, w h ich constituted the bulk o f land use, in ­
w hich requires that any exam ination into the c o m m o n threads cluded apartm ent com plexes k n o w n as rab‘ (plural riba") w h ich
w hich link M uslim peoples around the w orld goes deeper than consisted o f several duplex units frequently b u t n ot always laid o ut
external appearances, to address the structure o f society and its around a courtyard. T h e individual hom es o f the elite w ere usually
c o m m o n cultural elements. built around a courtyard, w ith a garden and water, w h ich w ere
In all M uslim societies the m osque is the m ost im p ortant build­ im p ortant for the privacy and en jo y m en t they provided. T h e
ing in the com m u n ity and arguably in the townscape, providing a sanctity o f the in n er courtyards, frequently p rotected by a b ro k en
sense o f identity and place. H ow ev er, it is just one o f four building entrance, led to ‘oases in the city’.
types w hich dom inate the M uslim tow nscape - the others being N eig h b o u rh o o d s organised a ro u n d cul-de-sac streets called
the market, the palace or citadel, and the residential building - and harat w ere the basic building blocks o f the city, and frequently the
in order to understand its role in the city, it is im portant to u n d er­ uses and activities o f urban areas w ere based on clan, ethnic or
stand the m o sq u e’s position in the overall urban fabric. guild associations w hich gave a strong sense o f com m unity. T h e
T h e Friday mosque, w hose central role in the city may be organising fram ew ork o f the city was provided by the street, w hich
likened to that o f the cathedral in Christian societies o f the W est, was characterised by b ro k en alignments, variable land use, and its
developed b o th as landm ark and congregation point. It was fre­ skilful transition from tight n arrow spaces to the op en spaces for
quently surrounded by densely packed buildings, so that the ap­ public in teractio n .
proach th ro u g h narrow streets led to a sense o f discovery, very T h e organisation o f these neig h bo u rh o od s and the g ro w th o f
different from the broad avenues and public places found in W e st­ the city’s pop ulation m ean t that the local mosques, as distinct from
ern urbanism . Stylistically, architectural expression varied by the Friday congregational mosques, played a m ajor role in id e n ti­
region and period, th o u g h key features such as the m inaret and the fying the co m m u nity and giving it a focal point. Indeed, w ith in
gateway rem ained universal. (The dom e is found in Egypt, the this urban context different types o f mosques em erged, as is ex­
M iddle East and N o rth Africa and arguably finds it greatest expres­ plained in the ‘Critical M e th o d o lo g y ’. T hese ranged from the
sion in the O tto m a n architecture o f Turkey.) massive state mosques used for Friday congregational prayer all the
T h e market (suq), the centre o f econom ic activity, was frequently w ay to tiny zawiyas. All w ere integrated into the tow nscape, and
found near the Friday mosque and tended to comprise a series o f m any w ere associated w ith c o m m u n ity functions such as schools
streets w ith commercial stalls on both sides. T h e main effect o f this or charities, and the provision o f fountains for passers-by.
contiguity was that the mosque was never far rem oved from the A midst all o f this, the congregational m osque rem ained the
centre o f the activities o f daily life. H ow ever, it also necessitated a single m ost do m in an t structure. W hile in m any ways its functions
transitional architectural symbolism to effect the m ove from the are well defined and its architectural ico nography well u n derstood,
com m on place o f the street to the spiritual space o f the mosque. there are m any variations in architectural expression and fu nc­
H ence the gateway becam e an im portant architectural element. tional characteristics. T h e functions o f the m osque once frequently
T h e palace or citadel tended to be the seat o f tem poral pow er, w e n t b ey o n d congregational prayer (for example, edicts w ere
the expression o f the ruler or the ruling elite’s w ealth it displayed often a n n o u n c ed after the Friday prayer), th o u g h specialisation in
an elegance o f construction and the best technology o f the period. m ore recent periods o f history has led to the creation o f ancillary
T h e citadel in Cairo and the T opkapi Palace in Istanbul are prim e buildings to house these activities. T hus it is appropriate to define
examples o f this type o f building complex. T h e citadel in Cairo is w h at the irreducible functional aspects o f m osque architecture are.

T h e basic elements o f the congregational m osque are well larger than the m odest H ouse o f the Prophet, it to o k a rectangular
established: a prayer space, part covered hall (haram ) and part open layout w ith four riwaqs, the riwaq al-qibla being deeper than the
to the sky (sahn ), w h ere the worshippers can face M akkah, w hose other three. A n axial dom e over the central part o f the riwaq al-qibla,
orientation is identified by a niche (mihrab) in the qibla wall, and the in front o f the mihrab, was used to highlight the im portance o f the
pulpit (minbar) from w hich the leader o f the prayers (imam) can deliver space. A m inaret served the dual function o f landmark and place
the serm on (khutba ), w h ich is placed to the right o f the mihrab. T h e from w h ich the m uezzin called to prayer. This basic design was to
space for prayer could be surro u nd ed by colonnades or arcades spread far and w ide into the new ly Islamicised lands from Spain to
(riwaqs) w ith the one oriented to M akkah (riwaq al-qibla) larger than India. It is also said that it was at that time that the maqsura, or
the others. Alternatively it could be designed as four vaulted spaces privileged part o f the covered prayer hall, was in trod u ced by
(iwans) around an open central courtyard, or as the O tto m an mosque M u ‘awiya, the first U m ayyad caliph, th o u g h it was considered
design m ade famous, a d o m e d space supported by pendentives. undesirable since it separated the prayer lines o f the faithful.2
Usually the op en courtyard also included an ablution fountain, It is im p o rtan t to note, how ever, that several o ther structures
and was accessed through a gateway that in places like Iran acquired had a p ro fo u n d influence on the evolution o f the architectural
a great architectural and symbolic value. A m inaret served the dual vocabulary o f M uslim societies w h ich do n o t directly fit into this
function o f landm ark and place from w h ich the m uezzin could archetype. O n e such building is the D o m e o f the R o c k in Jerusa­
deliver the call to prayer (adhan ). lem, built by A b del-M akek ibn M araw an (a d 685-91) to mark the
In addition, there are in m any places subsidiary features such as place o f the P ro p h e t’s ascension to heaven in the Isra’; it was a
the kursi (literally chair, b u t in this co n tex t m eaning support or masterpiece o f early M uslim architecture and marks the apogee o f
lectern) on w h ich the massive copies o f the Q u r ’an could be held U m ayyad artistry. It is the oldest surviving Islamic shrine building
open, and the dikkat al-mubbaligh (stand o f the relayer) w here in the world.
d evo u t m en w o u ld repeat (relay) the key statements o f the im am , T h e Abbasid revolution and rule (ad750-1258) did n o t bring
p un ctu atin g the prayer to the w ho le congregation. about m ajor changes in the architecture o f the mosque, although
A lthough the rites o f prayer are identical for all branches o f Islam, the evolution o f the m inaret was influenced by the unusual malwiya
there is no rigidly prescribed architectural vocabulary. T h e elements to w er o f Samarra (ad842-52), a beautiful m inaret w ith an external
allow endless com binations and permutations, b o u n d ed only by the spiral stairway. T h e only o ther famous m inaret w ith an external
inventiveness o f the architects and the responses o f the com m unity. stairway is the Ibn T u lu n M osque in Cairo, built shortly afterwards
As is show n by the m any examples in this book, the variety o f in ad876-79 and u n d ou b ted ly influenced by it. T h e riwaqs co n tin ­
architectural solutions and expressions are indicative o f the rich ­ u ed to be built w ith variations o f arcades or colonnades, and som e­
ness o f the possible variations that this basic set o f elements allows. times w ith a series o f small domes in the squares betw een the
Historically, the d ev elo p m en t o f m osque architecture has b een columns. T h e mosques in Andalusia, Spain, including the Great
straightforward. Starting w ith the H o u se o f the P ro p h e t in M ad i­ M osque o f C o rd ob a (ad786), are o f that type.
nah, the prayer space was the courtyard. Bilal, the first m uezzin o f Variants o f this basic design are found in the Indian subconti­
Islam, called to prayer from the rooftop. T h ere was no m inaret. A nent, w ith a greater emphasis on the three do m ed accentuation o f
tw o-step platform was p rovided for the P ro p h e t to address the the riwaq al-qibla and a som ew hat larger sahn than those found in
congregation, thus b e c o m in g the first minbar. the central Islamic lands from M o ro cc o to Iran.
This simple design was a direct response to the functional needs T h e next m ajor d evelopm ent o f the m osque was the evolution
o f the co m m u n ity o f worshippers. It did n o t ascribe any com pli­ o f the design into the four iwan form around a m ajor courtyard.
cated mystical significance to the structures or the layout, and This is unusual since it does n o t offer any clearly functional advan­
un derlin ed the simplicity o f the radical m o n o th eism o f Islam, tages over the riwaq based design. It did, how ever, coincide w ith
w here the b o n d b etw e en G od the C reator and his submissive the attainm ent o f a great deal o f technical mastery in incorporating
subjects is direct and w ith o u t interm ediation. T hus any space is circular elements w ith the linear in construction and design. N o t
suitable for prayer, provided that it is clean and functional. T h e only are vaults, domes and arches used more effectively and elegantly
P ro p h e t’s M osque was also m o re than a prayer space: it was the than before, b u t the enorm ously com plex art o f the muqarnas
seat o f tem poral pow er, the place w h ere people learned from the (stalactites w hich effect the transition from square to ro u nd shapes),
P rophet and the centre o f civic activity in M adinah. A lthough there flourished w ith incom parable virtuosity. T h e com plexity o f these
was no formal delineation o f functions in the early period, this was three -d im en sio n al geom etries remains aw e-inspiring and required
defined by tradition and well d o c u m en te d in the M iddle Ages.1 precision w h ich was unrivalled in that period — a tolerance o f
T h e next stage in the dev elop m ent o f m osque design came w ith millimetres being the norm . In fact, the muqarnas is unique to
the Umayya,d dynasty (a d 6 6 1-750) w h e n the G reat M osque o f M uslim architecture, and is found in palaces and public buildings
Damascus (eighth century ad) becam e the n ew model. M u c h in addition to mosques.


T he iwan based design also coincided w ith a rise in the madrasa in N o t only are its cities o f M akkah and M adinah h om e to the holiest
many parts o f the Muslim world. This teaching and prayer complex mosques in Islam, b u t it is also the area w h ere the greatest am o u nt
was to becom e increasingly c o m m o n in the M iddle East and N o rth o f n ew construction has taken place w ith in the last tw en ty years,
Africa from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries ad. O n e o f the most coinciding w ith the post-1974 b o o m in oil prices. T h e architec­
famous o f these madrasas was the M osque o f Sultan Hasan in Cairo ture o f these n ew mosques is therefore driven by a set o f forces and
(a d 1356-62), an enorm ous structure that m any consider one o f the imperatives that are different from those found in m any o ther
finest exemplars o f the M am luk architecture o f the period. T o this M uslim countries. T h e re is a style-setting fun ction associated w ith
writer, how ever, the elegance o f the smaller and later Q aitbay these projects, a certain self-consciousness ab ou t their role. T h ere
Madrasa and M au so leu m (a d 1472-74) remains unsurpassed. is also the desire to rem ain ‘au th en tic’ or ‘tru e ’ to tradition w hile
T h e evolution o f the dom e, the vault and the arch all laid the recognising that the N ajdi architecture o f the past m ust be reinter­
foundation for w hat was to be the m ost com pelling achievem ent o f preted in b o th scale and materials to fit the needs o f contem porary
M uslim m osque architecture, the O tto m a n do m e d m osque. This society. T h e m arriage o f techn o lo g y and architectural c o n v e n tio n
masterpiece o f design, pio n eered by the incom parable Sinan in the has op ened up n ew avenues and developed a w ide variety o f n ew
sixteenth century ad , divided the m osque space into a large c o u rt­ in terv en tio n s that m erit attention.
yard surrounded by a colonnade w ith arches or domes and then an James Steele introduces the first case study by looking at the
almost equal covered area on the qibla side covered by a huge central in h e re n t tension b etw e en in n ov atio n and tradition in the architec­
dom e supported on half domes and subsidiary structures. T h e w hole tural expression o f m osque design in Saudi Arabia. T h re e projects
com plex was framed w ith tw o, four or six minarets to create an that address different aspects o f this tension and its resolution are
ensemble w here the w hole is m u ch m ore than the sum o f the parts then presented. T h e first is the dramatic inn o v atio n o f B odo R asch
and w here the elegance o f the structural design is accentuated by at the P ro p h e t’s H oly M osque in M adinah. H ere palm -shaped
the extrem e fineness o f the proportions: the pencil p o in t minarets umbrellas co m b in e aesthetic and functional success in a sensitive
had some o f the smallest diam eter to height ratios ever achieved. and dynam ic approach to environm ental conditions. This is a
dim ension n o t sufficiently addressed in an era otherw ise obsessed
It is against this backdrop that the mosques exam ined in this b oo k w ith form and appearance. T w o great mosques are then presented,
must be understood. T h e w eight o f past practice has made it diffi­ each o f w h ich has a very different approach and design philosophy:
cult for today’s architects to provide continuity and change in the the K ing K haled International A irport M osque, by H ellm u th
design o f the contem porary mosque; to answer the need for a O bata and Kassabaum, is a totally m o d e rn structure w h ich retains
symbolism in architectural vocabulary that matches the scale and vague echoes o f tradition, yet remains rem arkably conservative.
materials o f the past. Certainly the patina o f age has given the older T h e m osque by R asem Badran at Qasr al-H o k m in d o w n to w n
mosques m any o f their m ost highly valued aspects and familiarity R iyadh, is a dramatic and successful effort to reinterpret the past in
has strengthened the effectiveness o f the older vocabulary to c o m ­ contem porary terms and to solve the problem s o f today at the scale
m unicate w ith the people. B ut the challenge remains nevertheless o f the m o d e rn m etropolis w ith a sophisticated co m b ination o f
profound: the general sociological p h en o m en a o f anom ie and artistic and technological mastery. It is an outstanding success that
marginalisation p ro d u ced by the m o d e rn m etropolis requires an earned the building the 1995 Aga K han A w ard for A rchitecture.
even greater effort on the part o f designers to p ro m o te stronger A special portfolio o f the mosques o f A bdel W a h ed E l-W akil is
co m m un ity bonds, o f w h ich a co m m o n architectural language is then presented. These constitute a corpus o f w o rk that lays d o w n a
an im p o rtant part. p ro fo u n d challenge to co ntem po rary designers and w h ich has had
As has been m entioned, the specific liturgy and functional a far-reaching influence on a large n u m b e r o f architects in the
requirem ents o f the m osque do n o t dictate any particular architec­ M uslim w o rld and the W est. E l-W a k il’s tw elve mosques (seven o f
tural and physical layout. T hus architects are b o u n d ed only by w hich are featured here) range from the very small and m odest
their imaginations in w hat they can propose. If some have p re­ structures that he built on the corniche in Jedd ah to the m o n u ­
ferred to go back to the classical forms th en this has b een by m ental K ing Saud M osque w here, in a brilliant tour deforce, he
choice rather than limitation. If some have b ro k en radically w ith actually repro du ced the gateway and muqarnas o f the Sultan Hasan
tradition they have been able to do so while rem aining faithful to M osque in Cairo. T h e craftsmanship and mastery o f construction
all the requirem ents for prayer and w orship in the M uslim liturgi­ and detailing have placed these mosques at the fountainhead o f the
cal doctrine (for example, Behruz and C an C inici’s Parliament revival o f a n ew classicism in co n tem p orary m osque architecture.
M osque in Ankara). This b o o k seeks to present a w ide range o f T h e second case study concentrates on Egypt. H ere, in Cairo,
these differing interpretations. the largest co n cen tration o f Islamic m o n u m en ts from the M iddle
By starting w ith Saudi Arabia, Architecture of the Contemporary Ages can be found, and these have naturally had a pro fo u n d influ­
Mosque focuses on the transform ation o f the M uslim heartland. ence o n co ntem p o rary architectural expression. T h e layers o f


tradition represented by these m o n u m en ts are explored in the and the traditional mimar s successful treatm ent o f the Iman Hossein
intro d ucto ry essay by James Steele. It is clear that from this rich M osque in Shiraz, all speak o f a marriage betw een the spiritual and
back grou n d three trends have em erged w h ich seek to anchor the physical manifestation o f design, a them e well articulated in
co n tem po rary expression in a rein terpreted idio m o f the past. the introductory essay by Darab Diba and Hussein Sheikh Zeyneddin.
T hese are the Pharaonic, represented by O sm an M uharram ; the T h ere is also evidence o f the elegance o f the n ew in innovative
Islamic, represented by Hassan Fathy and others; and the popular designs such as the A l-G hadir M osque.
vernacular, albeit w ith a strong Islamic character, also represented Finally, since the tension b etw e en a m o d e rn idiom dom inated
by Hassan Fathy. In m osque architecture the last tw o are well by W estern architectural schools and the need for authenticity felt
represented in the selections surveyed here. Hassan F athy’s N e w th ro u g h o u t the M uslim w orld underlies the architecture o f the
G o u rn a M o sq u e dem onstrates the vernacular rein terp retatio n, co ntem porary m osque, the last case study addresses the question o f
standing as a masterpiece o f simple elegance and harm ony. T h e the g row ing populations o f Muslims in the West. T h e challenges
classical interpretation finds its exponents in Aly K hairat’s Salah here are multiple. Included is the sad case o f U topia confronting
Eldin Masjid and M o h a m e d Abdallah Eissa’s Sayyida Safiyyah reality in Hassan Fathy’s design for a m osque for the new M uslim
Masjid. C o n te m p o ra ry expressions go from the unusual architec­ co m m u n ity o f D ar al-Islam in N e w M exico. Also featured are
ture o f M o hsen Z a h ra n ’s International G arden M osque, to the three Islamic centres in three m ajor W estern capitals: London,
spectacular N asser’s M o sque o f the M om ens, from the simple R o m e and W ashington, D C . Each approaches the problem differ­
design o f A bdel Salem A h m ed N az if for the Moustafa M a h m o u d ently, and the variety o f responses range from the traditionalist style
M osque, to the challenging innovations o f the A l-Z a h ra’ M osque o f the W ash in g to n C e n te r to the elaborate contem poraneity o f the
by A bdel-B akki Ibrahim. (In addition to these, a fourth stylistic R o m e M osque. B ut h o w m any o f the n ew mosques in the West
approach to m osque architecture can be discerned: International are being built by the com munities themselves? D ar al-Hijrah in
M odernism , w hose pow erful exponents in the first half o f this Virginia is one example w h ich has been, and represents a m odel o f
century w ere Ali Labib G abr and Sayyid Karim.) ) the increasingly c o m m o n n ew developm ent o f the m osque cum
Mosques from tw o o f the nations w hich form the M aghreb co m m u n ity centre. T h e question o f the link w ith tradition in the
(M orocco and Tunisia) constitute the third case study. A b rief W est is o f course a loaded one. O n e has to ask w hose tradition, and
essay discusses the essential elements o f the M aghrebi heritage, and w hose architecture is being used for inspiration by Muslim m inori­
the collection o f mosques captures the trem en do u s variety o f ties in a W estern, p red om inantly Christian, culture. As the preser­
co n tem p o rary expressions from the small-scale elegance o f the vation o f the A l-R ash id M osque in E d m o n to n , Canada, shows,
zawiya o f Sidi Abdel Kader in Tunis to the spectacular grandeur o f M uslim com m unities have n o w been im planted long eno u gh to
the K ing Hassan II M osque in Casablanca. It shows the various have their o w n historic m o n um en ts.
functions that the m osque com plex can play as a cultural centre in All this demonstrates that the topic o f this bo o k is a living,
the case o f the Prince A bdullah al-Saud M osque and Library, as grow ing, vibrant reality, that defies easy categorisation or
well as the m o re traditional Lalla Soukaina M osque in R abat. classification. T h e M uslim w orld, as it emerges from the historic
In the fourth case study o n T urkey, Aydan Balamir and Jale ru pture o f colonialism and its aftermath in the cold war, is like a
Erzen present the rich variety o f the country o f Sinan; buildings w aking giant, barely stretching its creative limbs. As it confronts
w hich range from the K ocatepe M osque, a replica o f the Sinan the imperatives o f the n ew m illennium , the creativity o f its billion
m odel, to the Parliam ent M o sq u e w h ich com pletely breaks w ith or m ore adherents will continue to provide a myriad o f solutions
tradition (sunk into the landscape, it is w ith o u t b o th the c o n v e n ­ to the ever present problem s o f authenticity and innovation, o f
tional m inaret and dom e, and provides w orshippers w ith a glass m od ern ity and tradition, o f continuity and change, o f the sacred
wall w h ere the conventional closed qibla wall is usually found). and the profane, o f the spiritual and the temporal, all o f w hich
This n o te w o rth y project w o n the Aga K han A w ard for A rchitec­ com e to geth er in the crucible o f the design o f the contem porary
ture for 1995. These, along w ith the o th er mosques featured, such m o sq u e.
as the T E K A rm ed Forces M osque, the Golbasi and Kinali Island
mosques, com bine to illustrate the vibrancy and variety o f differ­ Notes

ent trends, d em on stratin g h o w co n tem p o ra ry T u rk ish architects 1 See M uham m ad Al-Zarkashi (a d 1367- 1416), Flam Al-Sajid hi Ahkam A l-

are searching for ways to step o u t o f the long shadow o f Sinan. . , Masajid (Informing the Worshippers of the Rules of Mosques), Dar Al-Kitab Al-

Iran, the land o f the un iq u e and splendid Safavid architectural Masri (Cairo), 1982. This classic w ork is the basic reference on the mosque

legacy, is the setting for m any con tem p o rary mosques and provides and behaviour in and around the mosque. T he book devotes three sections

the subject o f the fifth case study. T h e splendid Azam M osque in to each o f the Makkah, Madinah and Al-Aqsa Mosques, with the fourth

G h o m w ith its innovative T -shap ed space, the m odest village section covering other examples.

structures o f Velayet R o u d and the fisherm en o f B andar-L engueh, 2 Ibid., p375.



by I sm a il S e r a g e w in

N othing generates a higher degree o f critical polemic- climate, terrain and eco no m ic resources, are n o w
ism today than the question o f the appropriate co n ­ being subjected to m ajor changes in dem ographic
nection b etw een the spiritual and secular aspects o f structure due to p op u latio n g ro w th and rural
religious architecture in M uslim societies. O n one m igration to the cities, b o th o f w h ich have radically
side o f the debate are those w h o w o u ld limit the altered the established social order. T o these trends
vocabulary used to a select range o f easily recognis­ one m ust also add the evolving n o tio n o f cultural
able, traditional forms. O n the o ther are those w h o identity w h ich has been severely shaken by events
believe that the only way to truly express the central over the last three decades. A pow erful n ew tide is
role o f the m osque in contem porary culture is to be rising w h ich is opposed to ‘W estern m aterialism ’, a
iconoclastic and to utilise the full range o f industrial materialism m ost closely identified w ith images from
materials and technology available, in the search for the U n ite d States. U nfortunately, this n ew tide comes
a n ew architectural language. Y et b etw e en these tw o at a time w h en Arab and M uslim societies are actively
extrem e positions lies a w ealth o f oth er possibilities, trying to redefine their identities in the face o f m any
w hich must be b o th acknow ledged and critically co n tem p orary challenges. T h ey are doing so amidst a
analysed in order to arrive at a m ore accurate assess­ constant, o v erw h elm ing barrage o f stimuli from the
m en t o f the contem porary condition, and w h ich is most overtly m edia-conscious culture the w o rld has
m u ch m ore com plex than this simplistic d ich oto m y ever k n o w n .
w o uld lead one to believe. Y et ‘the W e st’ is n o t a single entity. T h e vibrancy
T h e position that ‘trad itio n ’ (which is usually o f W estern culture, coupled w ith its d om in eerin g
represented as the recapturing o f a rom anticised and tendency, narcissistic character and m yriad o f artistic
idealised past) and ‘m o d e rn ity ’ (associated w ith the expressions, has its roots in the historical experience
contem porary) represent the only tw o alternatives o f particular subsets o f that society. It is only th ro u g h
available to architects today is co u n terp ro d u c tiv e an exam ination o f each subculture that one can
because it tends to polarise theoretical positions and properly decode the subtle m eaning that each has
m ake critical discourse difficult. It is also technically co ntrib u ted to overall society. It is a mistake to
flawed in its simplistic reductivism , w h ich assumes m entally lum p this rich mosaic together, or to
that a rich and varied historical experience can be misread it and its symbols as being superficial. T hese
reduced to a single ‘tradition’, or that the highly sub-cultures are con tin u ou sly in teractin g w ith each
relative and com plex concept o f m odernity, as it is other to varying degrees, w hich enriches and changes
n o w evolving, can be neatly circum scribed into a each o f them , as well as the nation o f w h ich they are
single definable reality that is applicable to all M uslim a part, and the o th er cultures they influence.
so cieties.1 Similarly, the ‘M uslim W o r ld ’ has m any sub­
A rchitecture is the physical m irro r o f the socio­ cultures w h ich interact am ongst themselves. T h e
econom ic, cultural and technological reality o f a entire M uslim w orld has benefited from such
society. Thus a w o rd about the evolving realities o f significant interaction, as well as from intersecting
the M uslim societies and the W est is pertinent. w ith the do m in an t otherness o f ‘the W e st’.2
T h e m any and highly varied M uslim societies, Y et at the level o f artistic endeavour, each segment
united in faith b u t divided by distance, geography, o f the M uslim w orld has had less interaction w ith

others in its o w n realm than w ith W estern influence w hich it is located. It is a call for contextualism in
— this is especially true in architecture. In substance, the broader sense o f accepting b o th the physical
therefore, the dom inant axis o f intellectual endeavour co ntext - including site, climate and materials - as
in the A rab-M uslim w orld revolves around the quest well as the socio-cultural context, related to b o th
for contem poraneity on the one hand, and the search style and function. Suha O zk an has co ntrib uted a
to develop and re-emphasise a predom inately ‘Islamic’ useful differentiation b etw e en w h at he has term ed
cultural identity on the other. ‘vernacularism ’ and ‘m o d e rn regionalism ’ as a w ay o f
For the purposes o f the current study, w e must u nd erstan d in g co n tem p o ra ry architectu re w h ich
look at the evolution o f the role o f the m osque in seeks to address a specific identity.4 In the course o f
M uslim society from the beginning o f the faith into m aking this im p o rta n t distinction, O zk a n stresses
the com plex and varied present. As was show n in the that regionalism does n o t reject m odernism , bu t
b ackground study, in its earliest manifestations the abjures internationalism , along w ith its ten d ency to
mosque was b o th a spiritual and secular space - n o t p ro m o te the ubiquitous prototype throu g h the media
only a place for prayer, bu t also a place w here and to follow tem poral fashion. M any architects in
im portant matters affecting the c o m m u n ity w ere different parts o f the M uslim w o rld today are
discussed and resolved. In accordance w ith this, the attem pting to grapple w ith the issue o f regionalism,
role o f the m osque has varied from time to tim e and and K en Yeang, w h o is one o f the m ost visible and
from place to place, and the form, structure and vocal o f these, has defined the tendency as follows:
overall appearance have reflected a similar evolution ‘the em erg ent R egionalist A rch itecture seeks its
and variation. architectural significance th ro u g h relating its built
Today, there is trem endous variation in social configuration, aesthetics, organisation and technical
practice across the w ide spectrum o f M uslim nations. assembly and materials to a certain place and tim e ’.5
This translates into a com plex contextual fram ew ork This view clearly defines regionalism as bridging b o th
w ithin w hich the self-perception o f m en and w o m e n technology and culture, and may also reflect the ideas
is n o w being defined, a fram ew ork w hich ac k n o w ­ proposed by some w h o advocate the view that the
ledges a co m m o n thread bu t also the significant proliferation o f a uniform , m ed ia-g enerated , in te r­
differences am ong the individual m em bers o f the national culture has caused an equal and opposite
collective family, all o f w hich m ust be recognised in effort to reaffirm and proclaim individuality and local
the role and form o f the mosque. specificity.
In addition to the quest for co ntem poraneity n o w In the case o f the mosque, there is b o th a functional
under way in the Islamic world, there is a strong and an artistic dim ension to consider in this regard.
emphasis on the delineation o f cultural identity. This Prayer halls m ust naturally be suitable for w orship in
is perhaps most legible in the grow ing trend towards accordance w ith the liturgy o f Islam, b u t the m osque
regionalism, w ith all the singular agenda the w o rd itself must speak to those w h o use it, providing b o th
implies.3 R egionalism , like m ost oth er ‘isms’, is a an uplifting, spiritual experience and an an ch or for
m uch debated term in architectural literature. Simply the identity o f the com m unity. T h e w ay in w h ich
stated, it is the n otion that an architectural w o rk the building com m unicates to the co m m u n ity is
should reflect the particularities o f the region in d epen d ent o n the particular ‘co d e ’ forged by the


evolution o f the society in that specific region. T he ability to reproduce and relate to an architectural
differentiation o f the codes by region does n ot deny iconography that is reflected primarily in m o n u m e n t-
the existence o f a ‘com m on co d e’, but recognises that alism and opulence needs to be redefined. This and
regional variations have provided distinct architectural o th er dichotom ies and tensions w ith in co n tem p o ra ry
languages. Like vocal dialects that have a co m m o n M uslim societies, pose problems for all contem porary
ancestry, these architectural languages have evolved architects and all M uslim intellectuals. Indeed one
to the point w here they are natural contributive has to recognise the need to re-symbolise the
elements to the society in question, b u t may no t be existing en v iro n m en t in M uslim societies as a
im m ediately recognisable to those outside it. fundam ental task o f co n tem p o ra ry intellectuals in
C o n g ru en t w ith this reality o f local architectural the M uslim w orld, and no architectural expression is
dialects is the aspect o f ‘overlays’, since the M uslim m o re likely to re-symbolise the built e n v iro n m en t o f
co n tribution to the conditions w ith w hich it has M uslim societies than m osque architecture.
interacted has enriched th em and created a new
synthesis. W h e n Islam com bines its subtle overlay
w ith the different original, different patterns em erge.
Those w ho try to com pare only the final appearance
may find n oth in g in co m m o n , since they focus on
physical evidence alone.
W hilst the hom ogenising influence o f a co m m o n ,
international, con su m er society o f technologically-
based industries will u n do u b ted ly con tin u e to affect
every aspect o f the M uslim built environm ent, it has
also reinforced the psychological need to reaffirm
the identity o f self and society and to reassert those
factors w hich make th em special. N o w h e re will this
be m ore manifest than in m osque architecture. M any
architects today are looking to symbolism to achieve
this goal.

S ym b olism and M osque A rchitecture

Traditionally the m osque has played a central role in
most M uslim environm ents as the organiser o f space
and society. It is also the defmer o f the society’s
identity and the provider o f a p o in t o f reference for
citizens and passers-by as well as travellers. T h e
pow erful symbolism o f the m o sq u e’s traditional
architectural vocabulary is un iqu e to the M uslim
culture and is uniquely identified w ith it, to the
extent o f being almost a shorthand for designating
‘Muslims’. T h e minaret, dome, gateway and muqarnas
are the key elements o f m u ch m osque architecture.
These elements speak to all Muslims (and even n o n -
Muslims) w ith a pow erful symbolism that transcends
space and time. Y et today these symbols have been
degraded to signs and even signals, w ith a concom itant
loss o f architectural expression.
ABOVE: The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem - the serenity of
In trying to cope w ith this problem , the historical
the established vocabulary of mosque architecture speaks with
exemplars raise an o th er paradox: they are impressive exceptional power to the Muslim population. BELOW: The
Muhammed Ali Mosque at the citadel in Cairo, whose minarets
m onum ents w hich have provided the sense o f identity
define the Cairene skyline, is a model of elegance attained by the
for societies living in a culture o f mass poverty. T h e classical Ottoman style defined by Sinan.


T here are many issues involved in approaching the givers in co n tem p o rary architectural language. B ut
problems o f designing a m osque for a contem porary are they perform ing the required role in develop­
Muslim com m unity. T h e co ntinuity o f key symbolic ing n ew forms and n ew languages capable o f
elements, such as the m inaret, dom e, gateway and enriching the architecture o f other building types?
muqarnas can be transform ed w ith o u t elim inating the • T h e place o f traditional forms in co ntem p o rary
deep im agery inherent in them . It is the skill o f the mosques: h o w does one position the notable w o rk
architect and a degree o f affinity w ith the com m unity o f Abdel W a h e d El-W akil, for example, in the
in w hich a m osque is to be built that creates the overall scheme (not dichotom y) o f m o d e rn ity and
difference b etw e en kitsch and creativity. T h ere are trad itio n in co n tem p o ra ry m osque architecture?
many ways o f providing better mosques and areas for
the congregation w hich respond to the need o f In addition to these formal concerns, the social
M uslim societies to anchor their self-identity to co n tex t m ust also be evaluated. T h e study o f archi­
structures built today, and w h ich speak to th em as tecture cannot be u nd ertak en w ith o u t an u n d e r­
eloquently as earlier symbols have to past generations. standing o f the society that produces it. T hus here
Architects must be allowed to free their im aginations the evolving socio-cultural milieu and the changing
so that continually evolving M uslim cultures w h ich functions o f the m osque in a changing society must
are capable o f integrating the n ew may benefit fully be considered. T h e questions to be addressed include:
from their contribution. T o achieve this, it is necessary • T o w h at extent should functional changes be
to look b eyond individual examples and to avoid the reflected in architectural form, and to w h at extent
tem ptation o f simply cataloguing the m any interest­ should architecture respond to other, m o re subtle
ing contem porary mosques w h ich have n o w been symbolic messages w hile reflecting an ever greater
built. R ath er, an attem pt should be made, thro u g h scope o f building technology?
attentive and insightful criticism, to define patterns • D o alternative structures or activity nodes develop
and identify trends. their o w n architectural lexicon? For example,
m o d e rn universities in contrast to older Islamic
Patterns and Trends universities, have chosen to build separate student
A m ong the issues that should be addressed are the centres, congregation areas and activity nodes,
follow ing: w hile relegating the m osque to a peripheral
• T he emergence o f the state mosque and the divorce ‘p ra y e r-h all-fu n ctio n al’ position. C o u ld the
o f the massive public works structure from its functions o f these different structures still be
social milieu. subsum ed w ith in the architectural constructs o f a
• T he degree o f success o f novel m odern architectural m o d e rn mosque?
forms and their acceptance by the population. T h e • C an the m ultiple purposes o f m o d e rn com plexes
Sherefuddin W h ite M osque in Visoko, Bosnia be redefined as the n ew functions o f a m osque
(1980) is a notable example, w here the population structure, or is the m osque inevitably to be
has n ot only accepted and used the m osque b u t is relegated only to prayer by the necessities o f
pro u d o f it as well. T o w hat extent are o th er responding to ever m o re specific functional
structures also elements o f identification for their req u irem en ts?
users and the surrounding society, and to w hat
extent do they contribute to the d evelopm ent o f a In order n o t to simply discuss individual buildings or
new symbolism that is read and u nderstood by the to generalise too easily w ith superficial evidence, a
population? T h e B h o n g M osque com plex in the m ore systematic way o f looking at these issues is
Punjab province o f Pakistan (1930-82) is certainly required. O n e way o f dealing w ith the w ealth o f
u nd erstood and appreciated by the population, material available w o u ld be to try to position th e m
bu t does it define a n ew symbolism or does it w ith in a matrix that looks at b o th building types and
simply reflect a wave o f populism? architectural approaches. This can be done for all types
• T he visibility o f mosques in the co ntem porary o f buildings, to tease o ut the myriad manifestations
building en vironm ent, in spite o f the em ergence o f the spiritual in all facets o f the built en v iron m en t
o f o ther large m o d ern structures, continues to and to help different researchers com pare like w ith
underline their im portance and im pact as form like in their analytical studies. For this essay, and for


LEFT: The great State Mosque

which dominates the landscape, is
exemplified by the Hassan II
Mosque in Casablanca. It is one
of the largest ever built and
dominates the urban design of the
city. RIGHT: The Saud Mosque
and Library complex in Enfa,
Morocco, is a large community
mosque that speaks to the needs of
the community and defines the

simplicity, the architecture o f the co n tem po rary Small local mosque: either a small n e ig h b o u rh o o d
m osque is m apped in such a matrix. T h ere could m osque, or the central m osque o f a small village.
conceivably be five building types (or four if w e T h e stru ctu re’s m ost distinguishing characteristic is
o m it zawiyas) and five architectural approaches. that it is o f m odest dimensions. This type o f m osque
may have m ultiple functions.
B u ilding Types
Large state mosque: large structure com m issioned by Zawiya: Small prayer area w ith in a larger com plex.
central g o v ern m en t authorities to express the state’s T hese are not covered in the typology proposed
com m itm ent to Islam, or to create symbols o f national here, because they do n o t usually provide an
purpose. Usually there is only one such m o n u m e n t architectural construct by themselves. F ro m a
in a country (possibly tw o or three in large countries, sociological p o in t o f view, ho w ever, the
b ut certainly no m ore than one in a city). proliferation o f zawiyas has b eco m e a noticeable
p h e n o m e n o n in some countries.
Major landmark structure: large m osque that is
architecturally designed to provide a ‘la n d m ark ’ A rchitectural A p p roach es
function above and b ey o n d fulfilling their social A rchitectural expressions have reflected a w h o le
function(s). A rchitectural m o n u m en ta lity is sought range o f approaches to the m any issues previously
by the designer. It dominates the tow nscape and discussed. W hile gradations exist, they can be
affects the order o f spaces in the urban environm ent. g rouped into five broad approaches, each o f w h ich
can be exem plified by con tem p o rary mosques.
Community centre complex: a building (which can have
m any o f the same characteristics as the m ajor land­ Popular (vernacular) approach: identified by the use o f a
mark) structure, specifically in ten d ed to house traditional in digenous architectural language, w ith
m ultiple functions (library, school, m eetin g room s, building w o rk und ertak en by the local mason and
gallery, clinic, etc) in addition to the m osque per se as co m m u n ity rather than an architect in the m o d e rn
a place for prayer. sense o f the w ord. T h e N io n o M osque in Mali

LEFT: The small neighbourhood

mosque is a defining part of the
urban texture of all Muslim
societies. This example, the
Chugtayan Mosque, is from
Lahore. RIGHT: The zawiya is
a small prayer space that is
usually associated with the tomb
of a holy person, and is located in
another building. The Zjiwiya of
Abdel-Kader in Tunis is a superb
example of this type of building.


LEFT: The beauty of the popular

tradition, exemplified in the great
Mosque of JViono, Mali, is serene
and self confident. RIGHT: The
detailing and composition of the
traditional popular mosque
designs are extremely sophisti­
cated, even if they are built in
mud brick, as shown by this
mosque in Taama in Niger.

(1973) and Yaama M osque in N ig er (1962-82) have Populist approach: like the vernacular approach, b u t
the serene balance o f the traditional. B oth w ere em bracing a w id er gam ut o f popular formal
winners o f the Aga Khan A ward for A rchitecture references and imagery. T h e exuberance and delight
(AKAA), in 1983 and 1986 respectively. T h eir that characterise the m ixtu re o f crudeness and
message is clear and understood by the co m m un ity stylishness in the B h o n g M osque say m u c h about the
they serve. T h ere is no denying the authenticity present semantic disorder. It is successful w ith the
w hich they exude, even to the foreign visitor. T h e people it serves and it raises key issues that architects
only jarring note appears w h en in one part o f the m ust address fully if they are to contribute their share
N io n o M osque the mason tried to insert some in re-sym bolising the M uslim en v iro n m en t today.
corrugated tile, w hich he him self later acknow ledged
as being incongruous. O n receiving his AKAA prize Adaptive modern approach: seeks to assimilate
in 1983 in Istanbul, he inform ed those present at the traditional vocabulary into a m o d e rn approach. T h e
seminar that he w anted to rectify this because it did Said N a u m M osque in Jakarta dem onstrates this.
not ‘fit w ell’ w ith the product o f traditional builders.
Modernist approach: places originality and use o f
Traditional approach: taken by trained and registered m odern vocabulary, form and technology at the fore.
architects, w h o choose to w o rk in either the T h e Sherefudin W h ite M osque o f Visoko stands o ut
vernacular or historically relevant traditional archi­ as an attem pt to break w ith the traditional Bosnian
tectural language. T h ey im bue their w o rk w ith the architecture su rrou n d in g it, w hile prov idin g a land­
self-discipline that the mastery o f these conventions, m ark building. This project, w h ich is an exem plar o f
techniques and p roportions requires. T h e small the M o d ern M ovem ent, has the convincing distinction
mosque by Hassan Fathy at N e w G ourna, Luxor o f having been commissioned and paid for by the users.
(1948) is one example, and the m any mosques T h e seven-year debate that preceded its construction,
currently being p ro d uced by A bdel W a h ed E l-W akil and the co m m u n ity ’s subsequent use o f it, shows that
in Saudi Arabia are another. it is possible for traditional com m unities to sponsor
avant-garde w orks and identify w ith them .

LEFT: The traditionalist

approach to architecture is
reflected in the work of a master
such as Hassan Fathy, who chose
to work within the constraints of
the traditional idiom and with
mud brick. RIGHT: Classicism
and tradition are hallmarks of the
work of El- Wakil, who prefers to
use the language of the past for its
emotive power and affective
content. He has had a profound
influence on mosque building
through his large series of mosques
in Saudi Arabia.


For a M ore T hough tful C riticism

B eyond the m apping comes the critique. This should
respond to the challenges laid o ut above, and address
the building at different levels:

The building qua building: the simplest, m ost direct

appreciation o f the b u ild in g ’s functional response
and aesthetic qualities, its volum e, space, light,
materials and colours. T h e entire lexicon o f studied
architectural criticism is b ro ug h t to bear on the
building, taking it apart and pu tting it tog eth er again
b o th in physical and experiential terms.

The building in its physical context: its relation to the

en vironm ent, b o th natural and m an -m ade, can
enhance or diminish the stature o f the achievem ent.
H arm o n y or discord, in ten tio nal or un in ten tio n al,
can be either positive or negative.

The building in its cultural context: its appropriateness

to the context o f a cultural heritage expressed through
a legacy o f built forms pro d uced th ro u g h o u t the
society’s history.

The building in its international context: the positioning

o f the creative act as a part o f the international netw ork
o f currents, styles, schools, and ideas, as well as the
extent to w hich it contributes to the evolution o f that
debate, either th ro u g h reinforcem en t or in novation.

The building in its own local/regional intellectual milieu:

the extent to w hich it makes a statement in the debate
that presses upon the intelligentsia o f the region. This
is no m ere reflection o f the international context,
although it could be. T h e lo cal/regional intellectual

ABOVE: The Bhong Mosque in Pakistan is an exuberant structure whose

ornate and joyful decorations appeal to the popular taste, but push it to
extremes. It has been dubbed as the epitome of the populist in mosque
design. CENTRE: The Said Naum Mosque of Adhi Moersid in Jakarta
is an adaptive design that is truly modern, but very much reinterprets the
local cultural idiom in contemporary terms. BELOW: The Sherefuddin
White Mosque in Visoko, Bosnia, is a bold attempt to break with the past
and provide a language that is totally modern and contemporary.


milieu is m u ch m ore concerned w ith issues o f an

urgency and im mediacy that is geographically circum ­
scribed, even may have universal overtones.
It is hop ed that in applying this type o f criticism
to con tem porary mosques, the m ost symbolically
charged buildings being constructed in the M uslim
world, light will be shed on b o th the architectural
and the contem porary cultural scene in the M uslim
w orld today.

1 See Ismail Serageldin, Space for Freedom: The Search for
Architectural Excellence in Muslim Societies, B utterw orth
(London), 1989, pp60-63 and Ismail Serageldin ‘T he Aga
Khan Award for Architecture’, The Aga Khan Award for
Architecture: Building for Tomorrow, ed Azim Nanji, Acad­
emy Editions (London), 1994, pp 10-31.
2 N ote that some writers, notably M oham m ed Arkoun,
have spoken o f the problems o f ‘rupture’ in the cultural
history o f Muslim societies. M oham m ed Arkoun, ‘C u r­
rent Islam Faces its T radition’, The Aga Khan Award for
Architecture (A K A A ): Architectural Education in the Islamic
World, Concept Media (Singapore), 1986, and M o ha m ­
med Arkoun, L fIslam: Morale et Politique, U N E S C O
(Paris), 1986, p36.
3 See Ismail Serageldin, ‘Introduction: R egionalism ’ in
‘Part II: The Regions and their Styles’, The Mosque:
History, Architectural Development and Regional Diversity, ed
Martin Frishman and Hassan-Uddin Khan, Thames and
Hudson (London), 1994, pp72-75.
4 Suha Ozkan, ‘Regionalism within M odernism ’ in Aga
Khan Award for Architecture: Regionalism in Architecture,
Concept Media (Singapore), 1985, pp8-16.
5 Ken Yeang, Tropical Urban Regionalism: Building in a South-
East Asian City, Concept Media (Singapore), 1987, p i 2.

ABOVE: Buildings must be discussed in their local context. Populism can

find expression in many ways. This ‘airplane mosque’from Bangladesh,
is a local expression that has become a major landmark. BELOW: The
Parliament Mosque in Ankara, has purposely tried to elaborate a new
language for the architecture of the mosque that escapes the long shadow of
Sinan. Its contribution to the architectural debate transcends the local
Turkish scene.




by S a m ir E l -S a d e k and I sm a il S e r a g e l d in

This mosque is named after the three main elements: the central
client, D r Moustafa Mahmoud. square-plan prayer hall sur­
The national acclaim which this m ounted by the dome, the
mosque has received stems m ulti-purpose double-height
mainly from the name it carries. space which forms the left wing
Dr M ahm oud has espoused a o f the building, and the tw o-
school o f Islamic thought that level clinic and education centre
has become both very popular which forms the right wing.
and attractive. His message is Each element has its own sepa­
simple, yet has profoundly rate entrance w hich allows
influenced various layers o f flexibility o f use. Alternatively,
society. It is founded on the the three entrances may be
premise that the Holy Q u r’an combined to provide access to
contains theories and ideas that the mosque for larger gatherings.
are beginning to be understood O n the facade, the strict geom­
and verified based on current etry o f the plan is reinforced by
knowledge and scientific evi­ an imposing symmetrical ar­
dence. He examines advanced rangement w hich serves to
concepts in medicine and atmos­ address the main square. The
pheric phenom ena in relation to minaret reinforces the religious,
Islamic concepts on popular public nature o f the building.
television and radio programmes, The structural elements o f the
in addition to regular seminars building and its foundation are o f
and classes at his mosque. The reinforced concrete. T he facades
mosque has therefore gained are clad in artificial stone with a
national recognition, becoming a granite base plinth. Floors and
centre for debating the interrela­ the exterior of the dome are
tionship between Islamic con­ finished in marble slabs.
cepts and scientific research, This building complex has be­
spiritual values and the material come a major landmark largely
world, secular and temporal due to its successful accommoda­
approaches. tion o f unusual educational and
The building is located in a social functions. T he complex
prominent position on the axis of building provides a good volu­
one o f Cairo’s main squares, metric and spatial response to the
know n by the m osque’s name, functions, while relating well to
on Gam’at el Dowal El Arabeyah its physical context. The mosque,
Boulevard, in el M ouhandeseen in addition to the prayer hall, in­
suburb. The surrounding tall cludes medical and educational
multistorey buildings offer a facilities —on a small scale —to
sharp contrast to the scale o f the benefit neighbourhood citizens.
mosque. However, the 30- This privately sponsored com­
metre-high minaret allows the plex illustrates the much larger
building to maintain an appro­ role which the mosque can play as
priate level o f prominence. a focal point beyond the bounda­
The mosque is composed of ries o f its immediate community.




by S a m ir E l -S a d e k and I s m a il S e u a g e ld in

This unusual mosque located

near the entrance gate of a 130-
acre public garden in Alexandria,
has completely broken w ith the
traditional idiom for mosque
Construction costs were met
by anonymous donations and the
building was inaugurated by the
G overnor of Alexandria in 1990.
Both contractor and architect
were involved with the layout
and construction of the Interna­
tional Garden.
A spinal, triangular section
rooflight serves to reinforce the
visual importance of the mihrab
wall in the prayer space. The lad­
ies’ mezzanine is situated above
the entrance and the ablution area
leaving an unobstructed column-
free space for the devout. Along
the base o f the outside walls, a
reflecting pool, coupled with a
splayed, hidden opening rising
to sill level, allows natural light
to enter in an innovative way.
The intention was to create a
mosque w ith several no n-
traditional features.
The structure consists o f a re­
inforced concrete skeletal frame
resting on 15-metre-deep pile
brick infill and is plastered inter­
nally. The roof is o f R om an
pantiles resting on steel purlins
with a steel triangular section
rooflight. The ceiling is oak, with
a herringbone pattern.
The building, which goes be­
yond its specific functions to act
as a gathering point for the public,
is notable for its intentional break
with the established tradition of
mosque architecture. The extent
to which it succeeds in creating a
powerful new language, h ow ­
ever, remains problematic.

ABOVE: North-west elevation, not as built




by S a m ir E l -S a d e k an d I sm a il S e r a g e l d in

This mosque is a remarkable out­ presidential budget, and the first

come o f the socio-political de­ phase was finished in 1959. After
velopments that swept Egypt his death in 1970, Nasser was bur­
during the late fifties and early ied there.
sixties. These involved a strong The mosque’s layout is sym­
sense o f nationalism and a m ove­ metrical. The ground floor en­
ment towards the em powerm ent compasses Nasser’s Tom b, the
of communities. The project was Holy Q u r ’an School, the training
initiated by a local society, the centre, and the polyclinic. The
Kobri al-Qubba Charitable Associ­ administrative offices of the associ­
ation, which purchased a plot of ation that runs these activities are
land (3,656 square metres) from also included on the ground floor.
the Cairo Governorate. The T he first floor accommodates the
Association identified the func­ main prayer hall, a library and a
tional requirements and the design residence for the imam of the mos­
was completed in 1959. que. The upper floor includes a
It is a large community centre congregation hall for ladies with
complex which accommodates a separate entrance.
various functions: This offers several innovations.
• The five daily prayers in the The form is bold, strongly sculp­
congregation hall with preach­ tural and yet displays modern
ing under the auspices o f the simplicity. The design does not
Egyptian Ministry o f Awqaf incorporate a dome. H owever,
(endowments). the minaret is well located to
• Holy Q u r’an School, a training make the building complex im ­
centre to teach orphan girls to posing within its physical context.
sew, along with classes for other T he structural system used in the
educational studies. prayer hall relies on curved rein­
• Polyclinic to provide medical forced concrete membranes de­
treatment at nominal prices. signed to allow minim um use o f
• Offices for the Association and vertical supports on columns.
for the organisation of pilgrim­ Today, the mosque is a major
ages and omrah trips to Makkah landmark in Cairo. Its unusual
and Madinah. form is complemented by new
Construction o f the mosque start­ Islamic motifs, which decorate
ed in 1959 but faced financial its arches and main body, as well
difficulties. W hile the building as by the unique minaret which
was still under construction, Pres­ was carefully located following a
ident Nasser was accompanying thorough visual study o f the area
the visiting Emperor of Ethiopia and the major roads leading to
from Cairo airport when his imp­ the site.
erial guest asked him to stop for a
while ‘to visit this unusual and
elegant church’. As they walked
into the congregation hall and
saw the qibla which is directed to
Makkah, they both realised that
it was a mosque designed in a
modern style very different to
traditional Islamic architecture.
As a result o f that visit, President
Nasser offered to finance the com­
pletion of the mosque from the




by I sm a il S e r a g e l d in

The expansion o f mosque con­ breaks with the conventional

struction in Egypt during the last middle-class buildings surround­
twenty years has led to the ing it, while echoing the spirit o f
proliferation of two types of Cairene Muslim architecture
mosque. O n the one hand, are w ithout replicating any specifics.
the state sponsored and architect The Mosque o f Al-Zahra also
designed mosques, which tend to differs from the two traditional
be formal and reflect an estab­ generic categories m entioned
lished architectural language lar­ earlier. It eschews the Mamluk and
gely derived from the Mamluk Ottoman vocabulary found every­
and O ttom an idiom; one such where in Cairo and seeks a diff­
example is the Mosque Salah al- erent expression that pertains to
Din in Cairo. O n the other hand many diverse sources from Muslim
are the local community mosques, societies worldwide.
which thrive as centres of com ­ The mosque is located at the
munity life, combining clinic, intersection o f two major streets
classroom, meeting place and in the Madinat Nasr district of
prayer hall. These are usually Cairo. It is designed to accom­
architecturally unremarkable, modate the large number o f w or­
being derivative pastiches o f the shippers w ho visit on Fridays and
established idiom. special days, with the option of
A notable exception is the using the building for classrooms
new Mosque o f Al-Zahra, where for the college o f Islamic D a’wa
the multitude o f functions are during non-prayer times.
combined with the assured hand T he building is rectangular
o f Abdelbaki Ibrahim, an archi­ with a square prayer area (42 by
tect with a long scholarly career, 42 metres) with a central court­
who held the Chair o f Architec­ yard (18 by 18 metres). Its floor
ture at Ain Shams. He is the is elevated 1.8 metres above street
Editor o f Alam al-Benaa, the only level and there is a full basement
Arabic language architectural for ablution and other facilities
magazine in Egypt, which has that cover almost all aspects of
been a major influence on a whole com munity needs. A mezzanine
generation o f students, and he floor is provided as a prayer space
has also undertaken many de­ for women. All in all, the mosque
tailed inquiries into the nature of can accommodate about 2,300
architecture and the history of worshippers w hen required.
architectural expression; co- At other times, the mosque
authoring a m onum ental w ork can compress the prayer space to
with Professor Saleh Lamei the region of the qibla wall and
Mostafa, which documents many convert large parts o f the rest of
features o f the heritage o f Mus­ the space on both the north and
lim cities and systematically south sides into twelve class­
describes their m onum ents.1 rooms, each of 80 square metres.
Thus at the Mosque of Al-Zahra T he seats ingeniously fold into
he was able to bring a very large the floor and the walls separating
store of historical references to the classrooms fold into special
bear on his design. recesses in the walls of the main
Yet Abdelbaki Ibrahim is also mosque.
an innovator. His own home and Structurally, the roof is sup­
office, combined with a training ported by tw enty-four intersect­
and research centre, is in an ima­ ing vaults carried on reinforced
ginatively designed house that concrete frames with a 12-metre


span, thereby avoiding columns finishes let the structure speak varied functional requirements,
in the classrooms. A dome, 8 met­ clearly. Although the use o f the as exemplified by the complex
res in diameter and 20 metres stairs in the minarets to access the issues o f transforming classrooms
high, covers the centre of the qibla mezzanine and the basement gives into com m on prayer space and
riwaq. The two circular minarets them an added function at a time vice versa. This is a bold archi­
rise to 23 metres, flanking the w hen few muezzins go up to call tectural solution which will now
entrance whose gateway is to prayer, how well that will be tested in the crucible o f
shaped as an oversized mihrab. work awaits the verdict o f users. everyday use.
Thus the building uses all the The most radical part o f the
recognisable elements o f mosque programme, however, is the N o te
iconography - dome, minaret, architectural expression given to 1 Principles of Architectural Design
gateway - but in an architectural the revival of a multitude of civic and Urban Planning During Differ­
expression which is neither a functions in the mosque complex. ent Islamic Eras: Analytical Study of
straight copy o f past idiom (as in It does what other vernacular Cairo, prepared by the Centre for
the Salah al-Din mosque) nor an community mosques try to do Planning and Architectural
effort to reinterpret a particular (like the Moustafa M ahm oud Studies (Chairman: D o c to r
architectural idiom in contem ­ Mosque in Dokki), but brings an Abdelbaki Ibrahim) and the
porary terms (as Badran has done educated and trained architectural Centre for the Revival o f Islamic
with Najdi architecture in his expertise to the task, a difference Architectural Heritage (Dr Saleh
mosque in Riyadh). The result is which is clear in the final building. Lamei Mostafa), T he Organisa­
the integration o f the new with a The Mosque o f Al-Zahra is an tion o f Islamic Capitals and Cities
certain continuity. T he modest ambitious attempt to tackle (Cairo), 1992.


Ground floor plan




by S a m ir E l -S a d e k and I s m a il S e r a g e l d in

A phenomenon which has proven gallery is composed of square bays all major directions. M oham ed
to be deeply rooted in Egypt, able on three sides; on the fourth qibla Abdallah Eissa has chosen tradi­
to survive political and social cha­ wall, the three bays are rectangular tional models for both the volum­
nges and movements, and to trans­ and house the mihrab and wooden etric organisation and ornamental
cend all conflicts, is the strong minbar. The two lateral galleries schemes, however, rather than
partnership between the private provide three-bay prayer areas attempting to develop a truly con­
sector and the government in the on both sides. temporary Egyptian mosque
construction of community centre T he m e n ’s and w o m en ’s ablu­ architecture.
mosque complexes. Typically, tion facilities are located on the
the private sector takes the initia­ lower floor, as is the community
tive, the government donates the centre. The minaret is slightly re­
land, an association is formed to cessed from the principal entry
construct the project through facade.
donations, and the completed Reinforced concrete is used
project is jointly managed by the for the mosque’s skeletal frame,
association representing the the floor and roof slabs, and for
donors within the guidelines and the dome and minaret. Wall infill
regulations o f the Ministry of is of kiln dried brick. Much attent­
Endowments. As such projects ion has been paid to exterior and
originate through a participatory interior finishes and ornam enta­
process that involves large seg­ tions. Carved decorations were
ments o f the community, they prefabricated to specific designs
are normally very responsive to in local workshops. Most o f the
needs, and well sited to act as materials are o f local origin,
focal points for social gatherings. though some o f the timber and
Masjid el Sayyida Safiyyah is a marble was imported. Among
good example o f that p henom ­ the features displaying elaborate
enon. T he programme called craftsmanship and great attention
both for the provision o f reli­ to detail are the marble inlaid
gious facilities for a community mihrab and dome, the brass chand­
not previously served by a local eliers, the timber and inlaid part­
mosque; and the creation o f a itions and w indow screens, the
social and cultural community ceramic surfacing, and the brass
centre, primarily for the elderly. crescents atop the dome and
Located near the road which minaret.
joins the centre of Cairo to the User requirements were estab­
airport, the 3,500-square-m etre lished and the design was complet­
site is defined on its perimeter by ed in 1977. Construction w ork
a concrete and crafted iron fence; started in 1978 and was completed
while the grounds are paved and in 1980.
landscaped. Cairo is rapidly expanding. The
The mosque stands on a po­ creation o f this mosque and social
dium reached by twelve steps at centre helped to provide a focal
the entrance facade. Entry to the point and cultural identity for a
prayer hall is through the three newly established community.
pointed arches of the portal porch, The design of the complex adequ­
which are supported on columns ately addressed the functional
faced in rose-coloured marble. requirements. The selection o f
The prayer hall is square in plan, materials was appropriate, con­
defined by four pairs o f interior sidering the tight budget for both
columns, surmounted by a clere- construction and operations. The
storeyed drum and horseshoe building is well placed on the site,
dome over the central court. A and forms a landmark visible from




by S a m ir E l -S a d e k an d I s m a il S e r a g e l d in

This project deliberately draws extends out from the parallel bays
on a popular traditional style, the to house the mihrab and minbar.
late Mamluk, as is evident in the The entire prayer area is charac­
two minarets and domed prayer terised by rows of octagonal col­
hall. The vocabulary o f this style umns supporting pointed arches
remains so powerful that for many symmetrically located around the
it is still the archetypal language central square. Elaborate orna­
o f the mosque. The Masjid Salah m entation and calligraphy adorn
al-Din aims to provide a point o f the prayer hall walls. An impres­
reference for students o f the sive, tiered chandelier hangs from
Medical School o f Cairo Univer­ the central dome.
sity as well as for passers-by. A rear, two-storey annex abuts
It is characterised by a number the corner o f the library wing and
o f im portant symbolic and archi­ prayer hall building and contains
tectural elements. A monumental a central hall, two stairways, and
portico with three pointed arches two entries. O ne entrance leads
supported on double columns is to a stairwell down to the base­
built on a platform twelve steps ment ablution room. The other
above ground level and provides leads into the central hall and the
access to the front entrance. Tw o courtyard area, or to a stairwell
minarets rising to equal heights up to the library and w o m en ’s
flank the portico. A large dome prayer hall.
with a clerestory drum surmounts The building is constructed
the main prayer hall located b e­ with a reinforced concrete frame.
hind the entrance portico area. Reinforced concrete slabs were
The building is divided into used for the floors and roofs. The
two major spaces: the prayer hall, dome and minarets are also con­
and the side courtyard wing which crete. Infill is kiln-dried brick.
comprises two floors. This side Facades are clad in artificial stone.
wing has its own entrance, which Ceilings are plastered. Mouldings
also leads into the main prayer and ornaments were fabricated
hall through two doorways. The on site. T he floors, the fountain,
courtyard rises to a double height and the mihrab are faced with
with a second floor gallery. The mosaic tiles and marble. The
second floor gallery running minbar is w ooden and hand
around the courtyard houses a carved. The labour force, 80 per
library on three sides and a w o ­ cent o f which was skilled, was minarets and large dome mark the
m en ’s prayer hall on the fourth entirely local. urban quarter’s spiritual centre.
side adjacent to the main build­ The design programme was The design has taken full advan­
ing. T he courtyard contains a defined in 1958, and the design tage o f a unique site and provided
central fountain and is surround­ was completed by 1959. C o n ­ an elegant building form with
ed by an arcade. The pointed struction began in 1960 and ended refined details w hich contribute
arches are supported by double in 1962. to its presence as a significant
columns. Large arched windows The Masjid o f Salah al-Din is landmark on one of the more
surround the exterior walls. one o f the last contemporary important stretches o f the Nile
The main prayer hall is con­ mosques built in Egypt to faith­ river front. It remains as a con­
ceived on a square plan. The fully observe classical forms, trad­ stant reminder o f the challenge
central square is defined by four itional designs and details. The facing those w ho w ould break
square columns at each corner. elaborate interior and exterior with the architectural language
Additional prayer space is pro­ decorations display highly skilled o f the past: indicating the need
vided by two parallel, rectangu­ workmanship. The courtyard area for a statement as powerful as
lar bays on each o f the four sides provides a quiet spot in contrast that provided by this contem po­
o f the prayer hall. The qibla wall to the urban context. T he tall rary mosque in its classical garb.



by I sm a il S e r a g e l d in

T h e M aghreb is traditionally defined as com prising Parallel to those developm ents, Caliph H aru n ar-
the countries o f M oro cco, Tunisia and Algeria, R ash id (of Arabian Nights fame) ap p ointed an able
tho u g h the current discussion is lim ited to the first governor Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab in a d 800. Ibn al-Aghlab
two. T h e M aghreb was con qu ered by the advancing consolidated his rule over vast parts o f central N o rth
M uslim armies in the seventh to eighth centuries ad . Africa in the follow ing decade (a d 800-11). This was
It has had a remarkable history, interlinked w ith the beginning o f the Aghlabid dynasty w h ich was to
E urope and E uro pean civilisations m ore than any dom inate the M editerranean from a d 800-909, seizing
o ther part o f the M uslim w orld due to its proxim ity Sicily, Sardinia and Malta, and sending naval sorties as
to the Iberian peninsula and Sicily. By and large far as Greece and France. T heir capital was Kairouan
M o ro cco and Tunisia w ere rem o te provinces o f the (Al-Qayrawan). This was founded by Uqba ibn Nafi, and
U m ayyad empire (a d 6 6 1-750). T h e situation changed was expanded under Aghlabid rule, the Great M osque
w h en the Abbasid revolution resulted in the massacre being rebuilt by Ziyadat Allah in a d 836 and completed
o f the Umayyads in ad750. T h e youthful U m ayyad by Ibrahim II (a d 874-902). It was to rival the best
prince A b d u l-R ah m an escaped to Spain and fo unded structures o f the East. Its square m inaret, retaining
a new independent dynasty there in ad756. From the original Umayyad design, is considered the oldest
that day onwards, Al-Andalus, as it was k no w n, was surviving m inaret in Africa, and its design influenced
never to be part o f the co m m o n empire o f the M us­ the forms o f subsequent N o rth African mosques.
lim world until its collapse to the forces o f Ferdinand T h e last o f the Aghlabids, Ziyadat Allah (a d 903-09),
and Isabella in ad1492. was driven out o f the country by the arriving Fatimid
In M orocco, there appeared the very first Shia U baydullah al-M ahdi (a d 909-34) w h o established
dynasty in Islam, that o f the Idrissids, w h ich lasted himself in Raqqadah, a suburb o f Kairouan. In a d 914

tw o centuries from a d 788 to a d 974. It was nam ed he seized M orocco and a few years after that extended
after Idris ibn Abdullah, a great grandson o f Al-Hassan, his rule over all o f the M aghreb to the borders o f
w ho revolted in M adinah and fled to M o ro cco Egypt, also consolidating the hold o f the Muslims
w here he founded the dynasty, w ith Fes as its capital. over Sicily. A b o u t a d 920 he fo un d ed a n ew capital
Fes has rem ained to this day a com plete entity o f on the T unisian coast w h ich he called Al-M ahidiya.
intertw ined and living tissue w ith magnificent m o n u ­ His armies and navies ex tended the Fatimid influ­
ments, most notably the famous Q arawiyyin M osque, ence and ultim ately his successors c o n q u e red Egypt
along w ith m any o th er residences and madrasas. It in a d 969 and fou n d ed A l-Q ahira (Cairo).
has a w onderful system o f waterways and outstand­ K airouan remains an impressive treasure trove o f
ing glazed tile works. It is recognised as an integral architectural m o n u m en ts to this day. It includes, in
part o f the w o rld ’s heritage, and still bears the im ­ addition to the Great M osque, the mosques o f Ibn
print o f its glorious past, inspiring even the most K hayrun and Al-Bey, as well as m any fine m ausole­
casual visitor. ums, mostly dating from the fourteenth to nineteenth
T h e Idrissid dynasty succum bed to the forces o f centuries ad , a suq o f some sixty shops, and o ther
the Andalusian caliphate in C ord o ba, at approxi­ structures and residences. T oday it is a well preserved
mately the same time as the Fatimids con q uered historic city thanks to the efforts o f the Association
El Mansouria Mosque,
Egypt, establishing a brilliant Shia dynasty there. pour le Sauvegarde de la M edina de Kairouan, founded Marrakesh, Morocco


in 1977, w hose w o rk to conserve and reuse this M o ro cc o into isolation. It lived on its medieval
architectural legacy w ere recognised by an Aga K ahn institutions and culture lim iting contact w ith the
award for A rchitecture in 1992. T urkish presence in Tunisia and Algeria and the
T h e Middle Ages witnessed the developm ent in the rising E uro p ean presence in the w h ole region. A
M aghreb o f the B erber Islamic dynasties. W h ile the long and slow decline, p u n ctu ate d by occasional
Sanhaja Kabyles supported the Fatimids in K airouan, uprisings and re-established order, to o k place w h ich
the Zenata Berbers w ere supported by the Umayyads paved the way for E u rop ean in terven tion in the
o f C o rdoba and gradually w o n over the w hole o f nin e tee n th century, during the reign o f M ulay A bel-
M o ro cco to o rth o d o x Sunni Islam. T h e Almoravids Rahm an (a d I 822-59).
w ere Saharan nomads w h o came from M auritania T h e French occupation o f Algeria in a d 1830

and fo unded their kin g do m in southern M orocco , m arked the beginning o f the colonial period for the
establishing their capital, M arrakesh, in a d 1070. M aghreb. M o ro c c o rem ained relatively in d e p e n d e n t
T h ey w rested control o f the w hole country from the until the beginning o f the tw en tieth century w h en
Z enata and established a Maliki school o f law. Y usu f the F rench p ro tecto rate was established in a d 1912

ibn Tashufm was the first Alm oravid sultan to unify (except for the recognition o f Spanish interest), and
M o ro cco un d er his rule, and he extended his African the long arduous climb o f the nationalist m o v e m en t
d om inio n as far as Algiers and northw ards. After c o n tin u ed until in d e p en den ce was achieved by
shoring up the M uslim amirs o f Spain against the Tunisia and M o ro cco in the 1950s. D u rin g this time
advances o f the king o f Castille in ad 1086, he de­ p ro fo u n d transformations to o k place on the urban
posed th em and annexed their territories. This led to scene and affected the pattern o f urban and architec­
an enriching interm ingling o f the art and culture o f tural expression in the Maghreb. T h e colonial powers
the Andalusian and M aghreb M uslim cultures, introduced a vastly expanded system o f tow n-planning
th ou g h these shifts b etw een Shia and Sunni Islam did that laid o u t m o d e rn m etropolises frequently distinct
n ot significantly affect m osque design, since the from the old medinas. O v e r the years these becam e
liturgy and ritual are n o t different. the M aghrebi elite’s chosen places o f residence and
T h e reform m ovem ents o f Ibn T u m a rt and his their large thoroughfares and fu n ctio n in g infrastruc­
followers led to the establishment o f the A lm ohad tures contrasted sharply w ith the ru n d o w n facilities
dynasty w hich gradually w rested control o f all the in the medinas. T h e elite also adopted modes o f
M aghreb from the Almoravids and un d er A bu architectural expression for th eir residences that
Yakub Y u su f consolidated its hold over the Spanish m irro red the E u ro p e an and rising International style
dom inions as well. T h e Almohads represent the in architecture. T h e mosques, h ow ever, w ere n o t
zenith o f B erber Islam in M oro cco. T h e Andalusian affected by the transform ation, b u t rather suffered
influence to ok ro ot in the cities and synthesised w ith from a stylistic dich oto m isatio n that confined their
the local culture to produce the unique flavour o f vocabulary to the traditional w ith only a lim ited
classical M o roccan institutions and artistic impressions. n u m ber o f examples o f n on -traditio n al design dating
T h e invasions o f the Banu Hillal and o ther tribes from this period.
unleashed by the Fatimids in Egypt against their F ollow ing ind ep en den ce, the n ew states have had
erstwhile subjects left deep scars in the social fabric to co n fro n t the reality o f their d ich o tom ou s cities.
and w eakened the structure o f the M aghrebi states. T hese rapidly urbanising countries face m any chal­
T h e A lm ohad em pire collapsed in ad 1269 follow ing lenges: p o p u lation g row th, influx o f rural migrants,
defeats in Spain and the rise o f the Marinids in east­ and an evolving econom ic base, all challenge the
ern M orocco. T h e M aghreb was profoundly altered, ability o f the cities to provide jobs and livelihoods.
w ith Marinids in Fes, the Hafsids in Tunis, and the C ru m b lin g infrastructures, p o o r and o v er-stretc h ed
W adids in T lem cen (Algeria), sharing different parts social services, ram pant real estate speculation, and
o f an increasingly lim ited pow er. w eak governm ents all co n trib u te to p u t incredible
A transition then occurred w ith the Banu Wattas in pressure on the central cities, often loci o f invaluable
Fes, succeeded by the Saadi o f M arrakesh (a d 1465- architectural heritage, w hile the degradation o f the
1659), as the M oroccan part o f the M aghreb fell into urban en v iro n m en t limits the abilities o f a g row ing
gradual disarray and anarchy. This was consolidated shifting homeless p o pu latio n to take ro o t and estab­
by the n ew Filali (Alaouite) dynasty w h ich then to ok lish com munities w ith a m inim u m standard o f decent


housing. T ension b etw e en groups frays the social gration o f the old city w ith its surrounding m etropolis.
fabric as m u c h as econom ic speculation transforms Paralleling this renew al o f interest in the heritage
the urban tissue. T h e form er cores o f historic cities is a renewal o f interest in the m osque. T h e u n p rec­
are increasingly ghettoised, w ith the middle class and ed ented increase in n ew building activity in the
econom ic activities fleeing th e m or actively destroy­ M aghreb, w h ich has arisen from the expansion o f the
ing their very fabric. u rban po pulation and the gro w th o f cities, has led to
Against this spiral o f m o u n tin g problem s, valiant a proliferation o f local mosques as well as to an
efforts have been m o u n ted by a group o f national expansion o f the role o f the state-sponsored m osque.
architects, urbanists and conservationists, w h o take T h e few examples presented here are indicative o f
pride in their heritage and seek to reverse its destruc­ the range o f new construction that is reaffirming the
tion. T heir w o rk has m u ch to say to the rest o f the renewal o f the m osque as a centrepiece o f the neig h­
M uslim world, and is a valuable co ntrib u tio n to b o u rh o o d , as an essential elem ent in the definition o f
international debate on the problem s o f rapid u r­ urban character, and as the articulator o f urban form.
banisation, historic cities, and the grow ing urban T h e Lalla Soukaina M osque in R abat, w ith its
u n d er class. expansive a c c o m m o d atio n for Friday congregational
M ost im portantly they have recognised that the prayer, reflects the state’s co m m itm en t to its Islamic
solution to these problem s requires the rejuvenation identity. T h e Hassan II M o sq u e remains unsurpassed
o f the entire areas o f old medinas and their integration in its attem pt to claim grandeur for the M oro ccan
into the fabric o f the living metropolis, n o t ju st the present w hile respecting the heritage o f architecture
preservation o f individual m o nu m en ts. This cannot and artisanship, even though it was designed by a n o n -
be achieved w ith o u t the significant in v olv em en t o f M o roccan. T h e Prince Saud library com plex shows
the local co m m u nity in reclaiming its heritage. In that the suburbs are also being infused w ith new
most cases it is the local n eig h b o u rh o o d m osque or efforts at m osque construction. Finally, the zawiya o f
zawiya that plays a central role in the rehabilitation. Sidi A bdel Kader in T unis shows h o w sensitive
T he rejuvenation o f the econom ic base o f the historic treatm ent can provide coherence to the urban struc­
city and its links w ith the rest o f the city is recognised ture, going further than simply fulfilling the reli­
as a goal, although the problem s o f vehicular access gious needs o f the local com m unity. In all o f these
and solid waste m anagem ent remain. examples the em ergence o f the n ew is still based on
T h e Hafsia district in Tunis represents an exem ­ the past. T h e careful use o f old motifs, ceramic tile
plary success in revitalising the econom ic base and decorations and glazed green tile roofing all hark
diversifying the social mix o f the inhabitants o f the back to the artisanship o f the past. T h e n ew designs
old medina. It is a financial, econom ic and institu­ also con n ect w ith the past th ro u g h the m aintenance
tional success. Cross-subsidies have m ade the project o f the established architectural vocabulary o f square
financially viable; the rates o f the return on invest­ minarets and o ther features such as the articulation
m en t have been high. T h e reduction o f densities in o f space b etw e en buildings. All o f this creates a sense
the old wekalas has been successfully accom panied by o f continuity w ith the past except in the larger
a sensitive resettlem ent scheme, and the rem oval o f structures w h ere the scale alone sets th e m apart. B u t
rent control laws has effectively lifted the obstacle to in the smaller buildings, as in their urbanism, the
com m ercially financed rehabilitation o f n o n - o w n e r M aghrebi architects and urbanists have m u c h o f
occupied rental units. This has been accompanied by a value to contribute to the renewal o f architecture in
sensitive treatment o f the urban texture, and an inte­ the M uslim w orld.




by S a m ir E l -S a d e k and I sm a il S e r a g e l d in

Lalla Soukaina Mosque was

commissioned in 1985 by King
Hassan II of Morocco, to respond
to population growth in the
expanding city o f Rabat. Prom i­
nently situated, the mosque is
intended to act as a landmark on
the main Casablanca to Rabat
thoroughfare and to accom mo­
date worshippers from the adja­
cent Hay Ryad and Souissi
residential quarters of the city.
Built on a 10,000-square
metre site o f flat land, the project
is dominated by a large prayer
hall, which is accessed through
four separate entrance porticoes.
The main entrance, situated on
the axis o f the mihrab wall, is
distinguished by an interior,
arcaded courtyard and the mina­
ret. These covered spaces com ­
bine with a landscaped courtyard
to offer cool shade for worship­
pers, and can also be used to
increase the capacity o f the
mosque to three thousand. The
roof of the central prayer space can
be opened using a system of
sophisticated computer-controlled
motors and hydraulics, and the
floor is heated to induce upward
air movement; these elements
combine with the vegetation and
system of fountains to offer an
innovative and flexible response
to the climate which can be quite
hot and humid. Internally, spaces
are lavishly decorated with hand­
crafted timber and plaster w ork
as well as with marble and tradi­
tional zellig, or mosaic.
Construction is based on a
reinforced concrete frame, infilled
with brick and local stone. The
removable section of the roof has
a three-dimensional metal struc­
ture supporting concrete roof
tiles laid on timber purlins.




by A b d e l h a l im I A b d e l h a l ia i and I sm a il S e r a g e l d in

This project aimed to provide a worshippers led the Prince to arrangements o f shelves, from
facility for religious, educational build a much larger mosque and the periodical section w hich is
and social services for the com ­ also a library: initially a modest open to the public to the rare-
munity o f Enfa, near Casablanca. proposal for an Islamic library books section w ith restricted
A rich suburb, Enfa is an upper- attached to the mosque, this was entry. Microfilm and other
class residential district, w ith few developed to a full scale research library aids are available and are
public or com munity buildings. and docum entation centre for located around the central space.
Individual villas with extensive Islamic sciences. The size, capacity Computers, filing and catalogues
landscaping form the dominant and scope of the services offered occupy the south-east corner o f
type o f housing, though a few were the result o f a local as well the library. Binding, photogra­
condominiums or tow n houses as a regional assessment o f library phy and book repairs are in the
are now developing along the needs in Casablanca and the basement.
east side, linking Enfa’s environ­ surrounding region. The library has a computer link
ment to the more public charac­ Arranged in four sets o f riwaqs with the Arab League D ocum en­
ter o f Casablanca. (aisles), the prayer space is organ­ tation Center, as well as ninety-
Architectural style is mixed ised around a central sahn which three docum entation centres in
and individualistic, buildings runs the entire height o f the Europe and the U nited States.
showing a clear European influ­ building, and links the mosque Visiting scholars, book exhi­
ence existing alongside more space to the library above. The bitions, seminars and lectures are
traditional houses. There is no sahn is covered with a very large, among the regular events held at
sense o f unity or cohesion, traditional cupola. the library, in addition to its
though the lavish and extremely H owever, the entrance from basic service as the main centre
well kept gardens give the com ­ the ablution area to the mosque for library research in the field o f
munity a pleasant sense o f order. through the qibla wall is some­ H um an Sciences o f Islam. Thus,
Commercial casinos, restaurants what awkward, and interrupts this mosque complex is much
and beach facilities for tourists the front row o f worshippers. more than a place for prayer.
form the public facade of Enfa. The main entrance runs axially T he library is air-conditioned
Prince Abdallah al-Saud to the prayer space, which also and artificially lit. This has been
Mosque and Library Complex, interrupts the sense of prayer, complemented by series o f
know as the Al-Saud Center for though it is a beautifully articu­ skylights using plexiglass domes
Islamic Studies, is located on the lated space. to generate a fairly interesting
corniche o f a luxurious suburb The atmosphere of the mosque quality o f light, and a unique
some 4 kilometres south o f the is pleasant: the main gates open sense o f place for reading.
centre o f Casablanca. The site is towards the sea and create, along T he m osque/library building
a part of Prince Abdallah’s sum­ with the other doors, a refresh­ is lavishly decorated using the
mer residence com pound which ing and ventilating breeze. The finest traditional crafts, motifs
stretches to the west o f the com­ quality o f light is also beautiful: and materials. Although there is
plex and contains two palaces diffused light floods the carpeted little innovation in the ornam en­
and vast gardens. floors from the main gates creat­ tation, the excellence o f the
The site is mainly accessible ing a sense o f direction towards craftwork and the superiority o f
from the corniche where the the central space, which is lit the materials are commendable.
entrances o f the mosque and the from above. T he structural system consists
library are located. Pedestrian T he spaces o f the library are o f semi-prefabricated girders and
access for the residential units organised above the mosque, columns assembled on the site. The
and the w o m en ’s mosques are following the arrangement o f the materials are mainly reinforced
located on the east and south prayer aisles. The entrance, concrete for structural elements;
sides o f the site. information, card catalogues and cut stone and double layer brick
Initially a small mosque able main desk are to the north o f the for the walls; plaster and gypsum
to accommodate four hundred central space. Staff and librarians ornaments for finishing the walls;
faithful was attached to the are to the left o f the entrance. marble or cut stone for the
Prince’s summer residence, which Periodicals and reading spaces floors; ornamental carved woods
was established in Enfa-Casablanca are to the right. The library is for the ceilings; and glazed tiles
cl979. Increasing numbers o f open-shelved, w ith varying and terracotta for the roof.


Housing and com munity formal sense, the language used height, w hich runs the entire
facilities, such as the hammam in the articulation o f the building length o f the site’s boundary and
(public baths) and bakery, al­ is at best eclectic. O ne o f the forms a horizontal podium for
though initially planned to P rince’s palaces is an exaggerated the development, w ith terraces
generate an income for the M oorish building, w ith tradi­ and gardens arranged atop in an
complex and its operation do not, tional cupolas, glazed roo f and Andalusian tradition. T he second
in fact, provide such support. characteristic horseshoe arches. is the towering minaret o f the
N either the hammam nor the N ext to it lies an ultra-modern mosque, the tallest element in
bakery are in use because o f the free-form palace. T he m osque/ the environm ent o f Casablanca,
high cost o f operation. The library complex, located im m e­ which serves as a landmark.
housing is located along the diately adjacent to the m odern These two elements unify the
north-eastern corner o f the site palace, employs traditional whole complex and establish an
to connect it to the existing M oorish motifs and facades. O n unmistakable identity for Enfa.
residential development o f Enfa, the extreme east side o f the site, T he arrangement o f the
while the com munity facilities the modernist expression of the buildings on the site leaves a
(though now closed) are on the apartment building follows the small plaza in front o f the mosque
south-east corner to link up to character o f the residential areas and a pedestrian street between
the centre o f Enfa. o f Enfa. the mosque and the rest o f the
Architecturally, the project Yet, the whole is made com ­ facilities.
complex is part o f a m uch larger prehensible by two elements. The As a whole, the building acts
development including two first o f these is a tall sandstone as a landmark for the community
palaces for Prince Abdallah. In a retaining wall, about 7 metres in o f Enfa. The minaret, the mosque


and the massive presence of the chaotic character o f its beach not only for Casablanca but for
palace complex form a pole developments. the entire region.
around which the scattered W ith ou t monum entality or The complex has not, however,
suburban character o f Enfa has grandeur, the complex adheres been as successful in integrating
become more unified. to the traditional vocabulary of and articulating the relationship
The project was* executed in mosque architecture in N orth between these religious and
record time: three months for Africa. A modest approach is research activities. But on a
design development, with twenty taken in the architecture o f the symbolic level it has provided
collaborating builders working houses, where plain surfaces, Enfa, as well as Casablanca, with
simultaneously to complete the secluded yards and fenced gardens a landmark which has helped to
entire complex in eight months. help to integrate them into the identify them both with the
Aesthetically, the Prince neighbouring com munity. Islamic heritage characteristic
Abdallah al-Saud Mosque and As a whole, the complex of most Moroccan cities.
Library can be judged on a appears as a restrained exercise in A sense o f cultural identity
number of levels. The complex formal aesthetics, w ith clear for the entire community has
has added grace and beauty to the reference to traditional M oro c­ successfully been created. The
skyline o f Casablanca, a city can architecture. complex has become a visual as
otherwise distinguished by its The project has succeeded in well as social centre for Enfa.
European and modernist charac­ achieving its functional objectives Economically, it has helped to
ter, while the mosque and the in varying degrees. The mosque shift the land use along the
minaret give both the architec­ has become a magnet for prayer in corniche from strictly transit
ture and community o f Enfa a Casablanca at large, and the library facilities to more local economic
sense o f cohesion, resolving the is an important research facility and social facilities.




by I sm a il S e r a g e l d in

There are few mosques in the thousand cars and fifty buses.
Islamic world that have attracted T he mosque is connected to the
as much attention as the Hassan centre of Casablanca by a grand
II Mosque in Casablanca. It is the avenue, and also forms part of
most ambitious example of a the environmental programme to
state mosque in recent years and remove pollution from the bay.
epitomises the contemporary The project was started in 1986
conception of Moroccan archi­ and completed in 1993.
tectural elegance. This is w ithout question one
This spectacular mosque o f the most spectacular buildings
complex, placed at the w ater’s in the world. The construction
edge on a reclaimed part o f the o f the minaret, 200 metres above
bay, is large enough to accom­ sea-level, required the use o f a
modate 25,000 worshippers, and 210-metre crane, a world record.
has a Q u r’anic school, hammams The structure is of reinforced
and a library cum museum cover­ concrete covered with M o ro c­
ing over 33,000 square metres. can travertine and is rich in
The mosque itself has a floor traditional M oroccan decora­
area of 138,700 square metres tions using zellig, w ood carvings
with a built up area at ground and coloured glass. The m on u ­
level of 91,600 square metres. mental doors and chandeliers are
The site covers 144,000 square designed and executed to match
metres and includes landscaping the scale of this imposing struc­
and underground parking for a ture. The roof o f the prayer hall,


a triangular trussed construction, mosque architecture and the ideas. This may well be partly
can be moved over an area o f 25 built environm ent o f Morocco. because o f its overwhelming
by 70 metres in about 5 minutes . The classicism of Michel Pinseau’s scale, and partly because o f its
The mosque’s location in the approach is reminiscent o f El- unique location. But whatever
water is intended by the patron, W akil’s large Saudi mosques, the cause, it is to be taken as a
King Hassan II o f Morocco, to though here it remains typically sui generis creation, rem em bered
encourage visitors and worship­ Moroccan, as it should, whereas primarily for its engineering and
pers to contemplate the immensity El-Wakil introduced a more structural achievements rather
o f the ocean and the sky, and playful interjection o f Mamluk than its architectural innovation.
thus the immensity o f G od’s elements into the Hijaz or Najdi Because o f the uniqueness o f the
dominions. environm ent. circumstances and the classicism
W hether the spectacular scale The Hassan II Mosque is thus o f the treatments, it is unlikely to
and the formal arrangement of a tour deforce in terms o f scale, be either emulated or much
the surrounding site and access structure and detailing. It may studied. This huge mosque is
ends up encouraging or discour­ well become the definitive thus, above all, the affirmation
aging attendance remains to be statement for this kind o f archi­ o f temporal pow er and state
seen. W hat is not in doubt is tectural vocabulary, but it is com mitment to Islam as a social
that a truly landmark structure has unlikely to generate a profound and spiritual force in today’s
been added to the lexicon of influence on new forms and evolving world.




Sidi M ’Sadak Mosque is one of land, a main factor in the decision

the oldest mosques in Zarzis and taken to extend it.
was famed for its marabut (mau­ The existing mosque was
soleum com mem orating a local made up o f juxtaposed elements
saint). Due to the population including a prayer hall covered
increase, this small mosque was by small cupolas, a freestanding
no longer sufficient to accom­ minaret and dilapidated neigh­
modate the worshippers, and the bouring rooms, with the marabut
local community agreed to its obstructing the main entrance to
restoration and extension into a the prayer hall. The new arrange­
Friday mosque. The works were ment was required to link the
commissioned and financed by a various elements into a coherent
m ember o f the community. whole while doubling the capac­
T he building is constructed ity o f the prayer hall.
using a system o f reinforced T he resulting design doubled
concrete columns and beams with the size o f the prayer hall and
hollow block infill and natural added a courtyard lined by an
stone for the external walls o f the arcaded portico giving access to
prayer hall. The roofing o f the the ablution room, the minaret
porticoes and annexes is of and the prayer hall; the marabut
reinforced concrete filler block, was suppressed and a second
and the prayer hall is covered mihrab was placed on the new
with cupolas and vaults. The part o f qibla wall, the latter is
exterior surfaces are rendered indirectly lit from the sides, thus
with plaster and display tradi­ conveying the illusion o f infinite
tional decorative ceramic tiles. dimension. The minaret was
The workforce, consisting o f 30- raised in order to keep the origi­
per cent skilled labour, was nal proportions o f the mosque.
entirely local. The mosque is an T he sober decoration displays
excellent example o f the adapta­ traditional ceramic tiles, round
tion and translation o f local arches and diamond-shaped
content, in this case that o f the openings.
island of Djerba, which had In spite o f its small scale and
developed a distinct style due to limited budget, the project
its isolation. develops a contemporary archi­
T he village o f Mouensa, tectural idiom. The various
originally a rural suq, is now part spaces unfold in a sequence from
o f the small town o f Zarzis in the the gateway, acting as a transition
Governorate o f Medinine. The between the village square and
tow n is located on the M editer­ the inner courtyard, through the
ranean coast, to the south of prayer hall entrance and culmi­
Djerba, facing the Gulf of Syrthe. nate with qibla wall.
The region consists o f coastal The mosque opened in 1984
plains surrounded by a semi­ w hen w ork was completed.
dessert zone. Sidi M ’Sadak Mosque
occupies a central location in (Text courtesy of The Aga Khan
Mouensa and the original struc­ Award for Architecture’s Library and
ture was bordered by undeveloped Documentation Centre.)




by I sm a il S er a g e ld lv

This small zawiya near Bab

Souika in Tunis, was built in
1993 to replace an older zawiya
which had been destroyed in the
1980s. It has successfully rein­
stated a sense o f identity to the
area. The ASM, entrusted with
this project, had to complete it in
six months.
The design reflects the madrasa
styles o f the seventeenth century
in Tunis. The bright white
facade splendidly captures light,
and its simple detailing is in
keeping with the tradition o f the
region. The gypsum and interior
stucco work, as well as the use of
tiles, reflects the craftsmanship
seen in so many of the historic
buildings o f the old medina of
More importantly, this zawiya
performs its traditional functions:
it is a refuge o f calm for medita­
tion in an otherwise busy district,
and it invites the faithful to come
in and pray. It commemorates
Sidi Abdel Kader, an important
saintly figure and scientist from
the past, and acts as a focal point
in the relatively unstructured
urban milieu of Bab Souika.

ISBN 1 - 8 5 4 9 0 -3 9 4 -2

9 781854 903945