Given the recent discussions on masjid design, I wonder what you guys thought of this new masjid in Turkey designed by a Muslim woman.
Yay or nay?
A Monument to Modern Islam
Almost everything about the Sakirin Mosque in Istanbul is different from other mosques in Turkey.
Its walls are almost completely made of glass. The mihrab, which in most Turkish mosques is a modest niche indicating the direction of Mecca, is a dramatic, rounded arch in blue and gold. The main element of the fountain in the middle of the courtyard is a sphere made of stainless steel, symbolising the universe. And the mosque’s main designer is a woman.
Although the Sakirin Mosque is not finished yet and will not be open to the public for at least three months, Zeynep Fadillioglu, an award-winning designer who made her name with the interiors of fancy bars, restaurants and private homes, has created a buzz with her interpretation of a modern place of worship. The fact that Ms Fadillioglu, 53, is the first woman in charge of the design of a Turkish mosque has sparked even more headlines about the project.
In a country where most mosques even today are variations of the classical designs of Sinan, the 16th-century Ottoman master architect, and where women have commissioned mosques before, but never built them, both the design and the designer of the Sakirin Mosque are a departure from the norm. The state institution overseeing Islam in the secular Turkish republic, the presidency of religious affairs, has recently signalled that it wants to strengthen the role of women by appointing them to leading religious posts, among other steps. But in everyday life, women are still mostly in the background when it comes to such projects as the Sakirin Mosque.
“It was very exciting but also seriously scary,” Ms Fadillioglu said this week about the time when she was asked to take part in the project.
With her blonde hair, designer glasses and elegant clothes, Ms Fadillioglu may not look like the obvious choice for a mosque designer: the Star newspaper called the Sakirin Mosque a “high-society mosque” because Ms Fadillioglu had been known for her previous designs of chic bars and cafes. But Ms Fadillioglu, who described herself as religious, said the work on the mosque had been a spiritual as well as an artistic experience for her. “If I weren’t a Muslim, I could still have designed it, but there would have been less feeling in it,” she said. She and her team worked closely with theologians and experts on Islamic art. “I’m not here to redefine Islam; I’m here to reinterpret the aesthetic part in my own language of design.”
The children of Ibrahim and Semiha Sakir, a wealthy Turkish-Arab couple known for their philanthropy, are having the mosque built in honour of their parents. The mosque is located at the entrance of the Karacaahmet Cemetery, one of Istanbul’s oldest and biggest cemeteries, in the district of Uskudar on the Asian side of the Turkish metropolis. Semiha Sakir, who died in 1998, is buried in Karacaahmet. The name of the mosque reflects the name of the family and connotes thankfulness in Arabic.When Ms Fadillioglu went to work with her 18-strong design team, the main structures of the mosque, such as the elegant dome, had already been built by the architect Husrev Tayla. She decided to put in the glass walls, which are decorated with a cast iron mesh. She also brought in nine artists to work on different aspects of the mosque, and extended the entrance area to create an “easy approach” that makes the whole complex more welcoming, she said.
On a recent day, the main prayer room of the mosque was flooded with sunlight that fell in through the walls. Glass panels with golden etchings from passages of the Quran reinforced the effect of being surrounded by light. The 400 square metres of the prayer room can accommodate about 250 worshippers, with room for an additional 100 people on the spacious balcony, the traditional place for women to pray. Ms Fadillioglu said she hoped that religious authorities in Uskudar would allow women to pray in the main room as well.
Turkey has an estimated 80,000 mosques, but few can claim to represent an expression of modern Islam. With its transparent architecture and its innovations – the minbar, which in most Turkish mosques is made of carved wood or stone, is an ivory-coloured stairway made from acrylic and decorated with a leaf motif – the Sakirin is radically different from the traditional mosque design in many aspects. In a city like Istanbul, which is home to fine examples of classical architecture such as the Suleymaniye and Blue Mosques, this may be a risk, but Ms Fadillioglu said she did not want to be “stuck with the same things over and over”.
“Carved wood for the minbar and the doors – that is the old style, and we have tons of that,” she said.
“Certain things can be done differently. There is so much creativity in this country.”
Even before the official opening of the Sakirin Mosque, scheduled for late April, news of its modern character and of Turkey’s first female mosque designer has created a good deal of excitement. Turkish media used terms like “revolution” to describe the project. Ms Fadillioglu said that since word spread about her work in the Sakirin Mosque she had been asked to design another one. She said she had not decided yet whether to accept the offer.http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090129/PAGETHREE/854752895&SearchID=73344258351144