Architecture: Modern Mosque

(August 2010) This Mosque is unusual – in two senses: for one, it represents a novel development in the traditional Muslim House of Worship architecture, and secondly it also accommodates worship space for Christians and Jews. To the point: no priest or rabbi holds service there, but the space is open to members of the faith, who want to meet in the Mosque.

The Mosque is a backdrop of the Bilkent University in Ankara and practically an integral part of it. The University prides itself as a modern and open place for students from all over the world.

The name of the Mosque is Doğramacızade Ali Pasa, named after the Turkish academic and founding President of the Council of Higher Education of Turkey, Ihsan Doğramacı who also founded Bildent University and sponsored the Mosque, completed in 2008. Doğramacı died in 2010 at the age of 93 and was laid to rest on the Mosque grounds.

The interior of the prayer area is nearly devoid of traditional Islamic ornaments. The walls and ceiling are made of plane Kufeki-limestone with little décor allowing the space to come into its own actually accentuating the effect.

The glass dome is intricately designed, allowing for a gamut of moods under sunlight and moonshine. „Through use of architectural elements of space and material the building sets out to establish, once again, the delicate balance between a soul’s humbleness against infinite time and cosmos with the finite desire for joy of life in this existence“, according to the planners from SFMM architects – transcendental architecture, so to speak.

The Minaret is made of Denizli-Travertin, as is the façade. For the court, granite was used and marble was implemented for the ablution facilities. All natural stone was quarried in Turkey. The pulpit or Minbar and the Mihrab indicating the direction for prayer to Mecca are made of wood accentuating the sleek elegance of the building.

Of course the multi-religious aspiration of the project gave cause to some critique, as it was feared that the worship space for Christians could further Christian cause. The question was raised as to the reason for establishing worship space for believers of other faiths, if there were none present. But supporters were quick to point out that Islam had a tradition of tolerance: at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century it was the norm to establish Mosques, Orthodox Churches and Synagogues side by side next to hospitals and rehabilitation centres not only in Constantinople but also in other cities.


Photos: SFMM

New Mosque in Berlin

Berlin, too, now boasts a Mosque worth seeing. Built in Kreuzberg it is most inconspicuous – at least from outside: the façade is made of Spanish sandstone and could just as well be the front of a shopping centre. It also has four small minarets instead of one large one. The Minbar and the Mihrab deserve special mention: they were made in China and transported in dismantled – „as the project was financed by donations only, we had to be very mindful of the costs“, according to Birol Urçan of the Islamic Foundation for Benevolent Projects, responsible for the project.

But Turkish and Greek marble were also implemented. Granite gives the accent to the ablution facilities in the lower level. The interior is richly decorated in plaster ornaments. Specialized stuccoers from Spain were hired for the task. Günter Barnstedt and Mohamad Miri were the architects responsible for construction and design.

The House of Worship bearing the name Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Mosque is the heart of the Maschari Centre, which the foundation hopes will become a meeting place for all citizens of Kreuzberg and its surrounding areas. „Our house is open to all including non-believers“, says Uçan.

It is his aim to offer vocational counselling in cooperation with the local employment agency and German-language courses under the auspices of the community college to name but two projects. Parts of the centre are ear-marked for commercial use such as a restaurant and shops.

Men and women worship together in the Kreuzberg Mosque, men at the front and women in the rear of the prayer room just like in Mecca, Medina and Al-Aqua-Mosque in Jerusalem.

There was practically no protest voiced against the project built near the Görlitzer Station in contrast to a project in the area of Berlin-Heinersdorf where strong protests were voiced against the building of a mosque locally.

Also worth seeing is a recently completed mosque in the Bavarian town of Penzberg erected under the auspices of the Islamic Forum (German).

Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Mosque (German)