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« on: May 07, 2008 06:05 AM »


Mosques meet with modernity
Jessica Hume

Last Updated: May 03. 2008 9:32PM UAE / May 3. 2008 5:32PM GMT 


DUBAI // In a city landscape dominated by skyscrapers, vast shopping malls and eight-lane motorways, the mosque runs a real risk of vanishing from view, one of Dubai’s leading architects is warning.


What is needed, says Omran al Owais, is a mosque for the 21st century: a radical new design that will help places of worship compete with the noise and bustle of urban life.

“What happens if you take today’s mosque and put it in 2020?” he asks.

“It will basically disappear. Dubai is progressing, the mosque is not. We have the mosque and there’s a dome and there’s a minaret; this image has been burnt onto the brain. Let’s update this image and make a change.”

His prototype design puts the focus on the minaret, the tallest part of the mosque, from which the call to prayer is broadcast.

Mr Owais says that in its preoccupation with tall buildings, Dubai has overshadowed its mosques and drowned out the sound of the prayers that emanate from them.

He would like to see the height of the minarets increase to a scale that allows them to maintain a visible presence among the high density buildings of Dubai.

The height of the minarets will depend on the “surrounding urban fabric”. As well as increasing their height, the minarets in Mr Owais’s design have elaborate patterns etched into their surfaces, through which LED lights shine, allowing the mosques to be seen from great distances.

That way, even when heavy traffic drowns out the sound of the call to prayer, the light shining from the minaret will be an indication that it is prayer time.

“Light travels further than sound,” he says, explaining that the new visual element allows for greater interaction with the city.

The drawback to his design, of which he is aware, is that glowing lights cannot be seen during the day.

Updating the mosque will not be easy, Mr Owais readily admits. The mosque is one of few symbols of Islamic culture easily visible in Dubai, though he is quick to point out that certain architectural elements of mosques are not historically Islamic.

Domes (which Mr Owais has removed completely from his new mosque) originated on the Hagia Sophia, the vast Byzantine church in Istanbul that was converted to a mosque and is now a museum.

“We’re not going to lose anything by removing the dome, we’re not gaining anything from it either,” he says. Not only would the new mosque be a better reflection of local culture, but by engaging local artists to design the etchings on the minarets — something he plans on doing if his plans are ever realised — as many people as possible would be encouraged to feel they are a part of the city, its design, its aesthetic.

He says engaging as many nationals as possible in Dubai’s development would reinforce a national identity among everyone involved. “This is where we should exhibit our culture.”

His points are brought home by the drive into Dubai along Sheikh Zayed road.

Lined with skyscrapers on either side, the 12-lane road could be in almost any modern city in the world.

Other than the vast number of cranes and massive construction sites, the Burj Dubai — already the tallest building in the world even before its completion — is the most recognisable landmark of the city. And this, Mr Owais says, is also regrettable.

“We are jumping over culture in the development process, and we’re losing a sense of what Dubai is,” he says.

“People behave differently when they’re surrounded by tall buildings.”

Architecture should take its cues from the people, he says, and mosques are the perfect place to start.


Reaction to his idea for the new mosque has been mixed. While some are excited by it, others oppose changing one of the most important symbols of Islamic culture. The latter have only given him more reason to keep working on his idea, to improve it until it he convinces everyone.

“Omran, my name, it means architecture in Arabic,” he says.

“But my passion is not just for architecture; it is also for researching and designing cities. I want to take what exists, fine tune it, and make it better.”

http://www.thenational.ae/article/20080503/NATIONAL/216314370

Say: "O ye my servants who believe! Fear your Lord, good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world. Spacious is God's earth! those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure!" [39:10]
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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2008 05:40 PM »

wsalam,

Good points about wanting to see minarets. It's so beautiful when you go to Damascus or Cairo and look out over the city and you see all these beautiful tall minarets with the green lights at the top. I know I for one used the lights to find a Mosque when I needed to pray. So what do you do in a city like Dubai which is full of skyscrapers. I don't think you need to build the Mosque like a skyscraper though or change it to be a "modern version of a house of worship". A good example is the Islamic Center of NY Mosque in New York City. It's architecturally modern, full of light, has very Islamic elements and yet somehow it's modernized. The minaret is there, the dome is there, but it looks modern. The shape looks like a boxy Mosque, yet it is obviously a Mosque, but it looks like a modern building. It's at a corner and you can see it from many angles. Yes a few blocks away you won't see it, but it's like a little gem in the city, you can't hide that with skyscrapers!

The only negative I would say is that the women's balcony is pitifully small and the downstairs area doesn't seem to be purposefully built. There are offices, classrooms, a store and extra prayer space, but these should have been built for the purpose instead of having to use dividers and stuff and try to create these things in those tiny spaces.
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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2008 02:48 AM »

salam

Interesting...One thing in the CD set by Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad ( in his commentary on al-Ghazali's Remembrance on Death and the Afterlife) he talks about how in the western world most of the masaajid are very ugly and poorly designed and it's really true with some exceptions such as the 96th street masjid in NYC. His underlying point was about how we are representing Islam and Islamic culture to non-Muslims and how it should be something that invites and draws people in, rather than the other way around, and our buildings are part of that...
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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2008 06:07 AM »

Asalaamu Alaikum  bro

Quote
So what do you do in a city like Dubai which is full of skyscrapers

Practical answer: If you’re new, you end up praying in a shopping mall because you can’t see a Masjid near you (even though there may well be one right behind you!!)

Other Emirates in the UAE are better though, namely Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

Quote
Interesting...One thing in the CD set by Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad ( in his commentary on al-Ghazali's Remembrance on Death and the Afterlife) he talks about how in the western world most of the masaajid are very ugly and poorly designed….

Not sure about the US but in the UK obtaining planning permission from the local council for a ‘traditional’ masjid is pretty difficult (especially in urban areas) since the design doesn’t necessarily complement the surroundings. That’s why many mosques are simply converted buildings which are not very attractive and not very inviting to non Muslims.

The point is valid, however, in the terms that something awe inspiring should undoubtedly pique the interest of non Muslims.

Say: "O ye my servants who believe! Fear your Lord, good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world. Spacious is God's earth! those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure!" [39:10]
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« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2008 06:17 PM »

wsalam,

Quote
Not sure about the US but in the UK obtaining planning permission from the local council for a ‘traditional’ masjid is pretty difficult (especially in urban areas) since the design doesn’t necessarily complement the surroundings. That’s why many mosques are simply converted buildings which are not very attractive and not very inviting to non Muslims.

So true! All those people advocating interfaith dialog all these years vindicated, but kind of too late.

Btw here's my favorite picture of Cairo you can see the amazing minarets of the city. This is the big version in case anyone wants to use it as wallpaper as someone asked!

ws


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