Western Europe’s biggest mosque complex will be redesigned to counter anti-Muslim stereotypes
The Baitul Futuh, in the south London neighborhood of Morden, with a capacity of 10,000. Like many European mosques, it was not purpose-built. The original structure, purchased in 1996, was a disused bottling plant in a narrow plot next to the Morden underground station.
Even after a generation of use, the building only imperfectly reflected its new purpose. While the chimney was transfigured into a minaret, the street-facing façade remained intact, and the routes to the prayer room at the rear of the plot were open to the elements. In September 2015 much of the complex was destroyed in a fire (a suspected arson), and in the months since it has become even more makeshift: Marquees have been pitched in nearby fields, and the administrative offices have been moved to prefabricated huts.
Despite this, the plans for the mosque’s refurbishment are statements of optimism. The Baitul Futuh is the global headquarters of the Ahmadiyya community (a Muslim sect considered heretical by many mainstream Muslims), and the brief was for the building to reflect that status, says Nasser Khan, vice president of the community association in the UK. Images of Friday prayers are relayed to many other Ahmadiyya congregations globally, and the complex hosts school trips, local exams, multi-faith conferences, and visiting dignitaries.
The complex covers 21,000 square meters (226,000 sq ft), and needs to be able to accommodate up to 15,000 people, allow space for separate male and female routes to the prayer hall, and include security measures such as scanning stations and X-ray machines. At the same time, it was crucial that the design feel open and welcoming, rather than besieged. “Our motto,” Mr Khan says, “is love for all, hatred for none, and we wanted that to be reflected in the mosque.”
To create that effect, the architects, John McAslan & Partners (whose eclectic portfolio includes a cultural center in Doha, London’s King’s Cross station, and the regeneration of the beloved Iron Market in Haiti) reinterpreted a traditional Islamic design motif: screens. The proposed frontage is grand and colonnaded, but composed of intricately patterned layers of screens, so that the shift from public to private space is gradual, and the building feels porous, with dappled natural light reaching far into its interior.
As well as a sense of openness, the new design is also more democratic. “Everyone comes into the same space,” says Fanos Panayides, director of major projects at John McAslan & Partners, “before splitting off into the separate routes.” These routes, in a concession to the British weather, will now be mostly covered…. read more at qz.comqz.comqz.com