Vanishing Mosque

The Challenge: In 2009 an international design competition called "Design as Reform Volume 2" was held to re-invent the mosque. The goal of the competition was to evolve the formal and programmatic offerings of a mosque in a way that was both sensitive to history and tradition as well as visionary in its reinterpretation.

The Solution: What if a mosque was not a building? What if it vanished into the fabric of a city? Seamless with the streets, connected directly to the pulse of daily life, and open to anyone and everyone at anytime, The Vanishing Mosque becomes more visible, more iconic, and more integral to the spiritual and cultural workings of a community than any building with doors and walls ever could.

This design strategy was created as a "developer's tool" for integrating spiritual space within new urban developments in the Middle East. Superimposing the function of a mosque within an urban plaza maximizes the value of public spaces, increases the value of adjacent properties, and fosters a powerful sense of community for residents. The raised prayer plinth and deep shaded arcades allows for the hustle and bustle of city life to slip around and beneath the mosque during prayer time without disrupting the congregation. When not in use as a mosque, the plaza functions as a place for casual lounging and chance interaction.

The formal inspiration for the design came from the need to orient the plaza in the direction of Mecca. The city floor and building facades of the plaza all bend and angle in unison, creating a dramatic forced perspective view "through" the city to Mecca. The construction of the forced perspective effect is carefully carried out at all scales of the design. For example, the arches of the colonnades as well as the sizes of the marble bricks on building facades get progressively smaller in the direction of Mecca so as to make the appear more distant than they actually are. The angled facades as well as these subtler details all add up to the "aha moment", a transcendental glimpse of infinity.


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