Today marks the first day of Eid-Al-Fitr, one of the most significant occasions in the Muslim calendar that marks the end of the month-long fasting period of Ramadan. To observe the event, we are highlighting 15 contemporary mosques around the world that have been reinterpreted by architects. Mosques have always been built on the foundation of creating not just a place to pray but as community spaces that bring people together for several purposes such as spiritual guidance, education, cultural awareness, social harmony, and charitable causes. The 15 mosques highlighted here aim to redefine traditional typology in evolving societies while preserving the context, sanctity of the space, and some of the vernacular construction techniques.
Main image: Mayor Mohammad Hanif Jummah Mosque, Dhaka, Bangladesh by Shatotto; photo: Mike Kelley
Al Islah Mosque, Singapore
Architect: Formwerkz Architects
Located in the relatively new housing estate of Pungool, the 3,700m², Al-Islah Mosque is planned to serve the local Muslim community with a peak capacity of 4,500. Seeking the notion of an ‘open mosque’ and as an integral part of the local community, the new mosque aspires to be a model of openness, reflective of contemporary Islamic aspirations in Singapore. Extending beyond the formal manifestation of visual porosity, accessibility and climatic openness, it embraces the different needs within the Muslim community.
At the greater community level, it addresses the role of the mosque in promoting religious understanding. This ambition for openness posed many challenges in view of the tight site and its proximity to the neighbouring residential units. Physical porosity allows a visual connection to the neighbourhood and extends its spatial field beyond its boundary but poses the issues of sanctity and threshold expected of a mosque. Climatically, porosity offers many benefits of ventilation and daylighting but presents challenges of protection from the monsoon rain. At the urban scale, the massing strategy seeks to create more porosity and human scale. The arabesque screen facades of the three blocks are articulated differently to correspond to the different programmatic requirements and climatic responses. But collectively, the blocks with the minaret exude a dignified and subliminal presence while embracing the community spirit.
Mayor Mohammad Hanif Jummah Mosque, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Located adjacent to the Azimpur graveyard in Lalbagh, the Mayor Mohammad Hanif Jummah Mosque is a threshold space inspired by the Azam Shah Mosque built by the Mughals in the Lalbagh Fort. The new design is a departure from traditional mosques in both physical and philosophical designs, combining old and new ideas into a contemporary concept. A key feature derived from the Mughal mosque was the “Shaan” – an extended terrace attached to the entrance of the main hall. The Shaan provides additional prayer space when the interior is full but otherwise acts as a social hub for the community. The main hall is a large open space held up by cement columns with trunks that expand into canopies which hold up the slabs above, creating an indoor forest. Windows along the north and east walls flood the room with daylight while the perforated brick wall on the south filters light and noise coming from the road.
Basunah, Sohag, Egypt
Architect: Dar Arafa Architects
The Basunah is located in the hot and arid village of Basuna in a noisy, dusty and densely constructed area with encroaching residential buildings, a cemetery, cattle frequently moving back and forth on the road and a weekly makeshift small market right outside the main entrance of this place of worship posed a major challenge. The main dome was constructed using an Egyptian-made light block made of sand, lime and air. The remarkable lightness of the block decreased the building’s own-weight, in turn decreasing the required dimensions of all reinforced concrete elements. The architect also had to devise a special steel compass to guarantee the meticulous spatial positioning of every single block regardless of a mason’s skills and accuracy.
Mohammad Rasul-Allah Mosque, Shiraz, Iran
Architect: Paya Payrang Architectural Group
The brief for the architect was to design a mosque with the maximum capacity for prayers in the area of the old prayer hall at the site, being surrounded by 70-year-old trees as well as a hospital on the main street. The primary idea was formed on four challenges; the maximum capacity for prayers, preserving the trees, proximity to the main axis of the pavement, and the old prayer hall. These factors led to the concept of a mosque without a court where the whole area between the trees was regarded as the area that could be redesigned, leading to a geometrical shape that wove its way in through the scattered trees without harming them.
Al Ansar Mosque, Singapore
The Al-Ansar Mosque is a community mosque located along Green Link, between Bedok Reservoir and East Coast Park. The design of the mosque is focused on creating an open and inclusive atmosphere, which is inviting to worshippers and the community at large. Elements like the minaret and main prayer hall’s dome are retained from the past and integrated with new structures like the floating podium, which houses classrooms and auditoriums. With a 300-seater capacity, the auditorium can be used as an extended prayer space, as well as a multi-purpose venue for events such as weddings.
Sancaklar Mosque, Buyukcekmece, Turkey
Architect: Emre Arolat Architects
Located in Buyukçekmece, a suburban neighbourhood on the outskirts of Istanbul, the critically-acclaimed 700m² religious project aims to address the fundamental issues of designing a mosque by distancing itself from the current architectural discussions based on form and focusing solely on the essence of religious space. Located within a prairie landscape that is separated from the surrounding suburban gated communities by a busy highway, the high walls surrounding the park in the upper courtyard of the mosque depict a clear boundary between the chaotic outer world and the serene atmosphere of the public park.
The long canopy stretching out from the park becomes the only architectural element visible on the outside. The building is located below this canopy and can be accessed from a path from the upper courtyard through the park – blending in completely with the topography and creating a sensorial experience as one moves through the landscape, down the hill and in between the walls to enter the mosque. The interior of the mosque, a simple cave-like space, becomes a dramatic and awe-inspiring place to pray in solitude. The slits and fractures along the Qiblah wall enhance the directionality of the prayer space and allows daylight to filter into the prayer hall.
Hikma, Dandaji Village, Niger
Architects: atelier masomi and studio chahar
In the 9th century AD, Muslim scholars made remarkable contributions to the sciences and humanities in Bagdad’s Bayt al-Hikma, or House of Wisdom, a library and research centre housing the world’s largest collection of books for scholars to engage both theological and scientific matters. With the support of local leaders, women, and youth, the Hikma project, designed by atelier masōmī + studio chahar re-introduces these values embedded in Islam itself, by transforming a derelict mosque into a library that shares its site with a new mosque for the village of Dandaji in Niger.
The project is a culture and education hub where secularism and religion peacefully co-exist to cultivate minds and strengthen the community. To restore the old building to its previous glory, the original masons are invited to join the project’s team. In the process, they learn about adobe-enhancing additives and erosion protection techniques. Instead of the region’s traditional but scarce wood, the interior renovation uses metal for study spaces, partitions, stairs, and a mezzanine level, as a contemporary touch to a traditional space.
Amir Shakib Arslan Mosque, Moukhtara, Lebanon
Architect: L.E.FT Architects
This small mosque of 100m² included a renovation of an existing masonry cross-vaulted space and the addition of a minaret, grafted onto the existing structure as a symbolic landmark, next to the 18th-century old palace. A new civic plaza was created in what was before an adjoining parking space, turning the frontage of the mosque into a public square with seating, water fountain, ablution space and shading under a newly planted fig tree.
Given the non-alignment of the existing structure with the required directionality to Makkah, the design approach was first set to correct the orientation through a series of physical transformations and additions. The directionality towards Makkah became the only tool and language mobilised to shape the new mosque and its surroundings, at all scales, from the interior of the mosque to the outdoor plaza.
Gulshan Society Mosque, Bangladesh
Architect: Kashef Chowdhury – Urbana
The urban plot allocated for this mosque was relatively small – only 741m² – but a survey suggested that the mosque would need to accommodate a large congregation. This necessitated reimagining the mosque typology into a vertically stacked volume. Planned for 2,500 devotees, the building is presently attended by up to 4,500 people for the weekly Friday prayer. Because of the limited size of the plot, the court-prayer hall sequence had to be substituted for a pragmatic approach. The entrance, for example, is immediate: a flight of steps from the sidewalk directly leads to the main vestibule and prayer hall.
All the floors are accessible by generous stairs and elevators, taking visitors to six upper levels. The interior spaces benefit from good penetration of natural light and ventilation, made possible by the employment of a jali or screen structure, which wraps the building and generates its unique form and façades, while ensuring protection from rain and solar heat gain. The entire structure is white cast concrete, giving it the appearance of a monolith in a city where otherwise the fabric and skyline is formed of generic residential and commercial buildings.
Al Warqa’a Mosque, Dubai United Arab Emirates
Architect: waiwai architects
Designed with the intention of capturing the historical premise of a mosque as a communal space for worship, Al Warqa’a Mosque is a structure that also functions as a gathering place for the community. With the proliferation of the iconic Turkish Central Dome mosque typology in the UAE, the architects – Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto – sought to return to a simpler design that is less focused on the mosque as an icon, and more as a social space.
The 1,400m² echoes the spatial simplicity of Prophet Muhammad’s 7th-century house in Medina, which is considered the first mosque in history. In what came to be known as the Arab Hypostyle typology, the original mosque structure was distinguished by an open courtyard surrounded by rooms supported by columns. The design approach behind this layout was influenced by an understanding of the mosque as a multifunctional space for the community to congregate and socialise in after prayer; in this way it is seen as an extension of its immediate environment.
Punchbowl Mosque, New South Wales, Australia
Architect: Candalepas Associates
The 549m² project, located 17km outside of Sydney’s central business district, seeks to establish a new home for the Australian Islamic Mission and provide a complex of buildings to facilitate learning and religious worship for local community members that follow the Muslim faith. The development was undertaken in two stages, with Stage 1 being the construction of the Mosque accommodating approximately 300 worshippers and Stage 2 being the construction of community buildings.
The buildings are arranged around a quadrangle partially open to one side, which provides an internal outlook and affords privacy to students and community members. This configuration creates two adjoining but separate courtyards, providing the separation of the primary daytime functions required in the client’s brief to the architect. The first more public of the two courtyards, is accessed directly from the street and abuts the mosque. This courtyard is used primarily as an orientation and congregation space for worshippers entering and exiting the Mosque. The second courtyard is larger and more private, accessed through, but physically separated from the first courtyard.
APSARC Mosque, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
The spiritual centre of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) community is a mosque within the linear park at the heart of the site. Highly visible throughout the community, the sanctuary is approached through outdoor courtyards aligned with Islam’s most sacred places – Mecca and Al Kaaba. The prayer hall is set within a reflecting pool and reached from elevated glass bridges leading to its entrances. This procession represents the transition of leaving the hubbub of the outside world to enter the sacred realm. The reflecting pool glows at night, giving the illusion that the entire building is floating over the water. To either side of the prayer hall, curving walls screen supporting functions, including ablution spaces and imam’s office. The main prayer hall is designed as a 75-foot-square cube sheathed in a dynamic, layered skin. The outermost layer of glass is separated from an inner layer of stone-clad concrete by three feet. The 115-foot-tall minaret is designed to complement the mosque in its similar patterns of stone cladding and windows.
The exteriors of both structures are designed to represent an abstracted version of a traditional Arabic pattern and create an ever-changing experience of light and shadow. At night, the glass box becomes a lantern in the landscape, punctuated with points of light. Custom, square pendants are arranged in a grid pattern and suspended by cables to illuminate the interior. The main prayer hall accommodates 200 men, while a mezzanine level accommodates 100 women. Wrapping its walls and ceiling is a modern interpretation of an Arabic screen wall (mashrabiya) that glows with natural light from windows and skylights to brighten the modern space.
Al-Irsyad Mosque, Kota Baru Parahyangan, Indonesia
The first thing that might catch one’s attention about this mosque is the absence of a dome, which is almost always a quintessential characteristic of mosques. However, the architects have clarified that the dome is not a cultural or religious identity, hence not a necessity when it comes to designing an Islamic place of worship.
The architecture of this 8,000m² mosque is unique in that it uses stacked stones as the main façade to create a tectonic effect while embedding Islamic text and calligraphy on the façade as a graphic element and reminder prayer. The primary shape of the mosque takes the form of a square, which seems the most efficient since Muslims pray in straight rows facing a specific direction or the Qiblah.
The structural columns are arranged in such a way that the façade seems like it is not supported by any frame. This shape also alludes to Ka’bah, the most important structure in the Islamic world, to which all Muslims’ prayers are directed. With a capacity to accommodate approximately 1,000 people, the mosque is also designed to ‘blend in’ with nature. The stacked stones allow for natural ventilation without the need for air-conditioning. Surrounded by water, the ambient temperature around the mosque is lower during the hot season.
Qasr Al Hosn: Al Musallah Prayer Hall, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Located in the United Arab Emirates‘ capital Abu Dhabi, the historic 18th-century Qasr Al Hosn Fort was recently restored. As an important element of the cultural park – part of the 140,000m² complex – the 1,100m² Al Musallah prayer hall, designed by Denmark and Abu Dhabi-based multi-disciplinary firm CEBRA, is located at the north-eastern corner of the site as a series of small interconnected buildings that form a cave-like structure pushed halfway into a large water feature.
The Musallah stands in water to create a subtle privacy barrier without using walls, which provides calm and secluded spaces for prayer without visual disturbances. At the same time, the water is used as a symbol of spiritual purification flowing around and in between the interior functions. The individual spaces are connected by glass tubes bridging over water, which symbolically purifies the mind when moving through the light-filled passages from one area to the next.
The Islamic Centre and the Mosque, Rijeka, Croatia
Architects: Dora Vlahović, Luka Vlahović, Dubravka Đurkan-Horvat and Davor Mauser
The mosque is located in Gornji Zamet that offers a spectacular view of the Kvarner Bay off the Adriatic Sea. Its dome is shaped in five separate parts that visually constitute a single object. The architects sought inspiration from the rich traditions of dome construction from Ottoman mosques on the shores of the Mediterranean. With his sculptural approach he gave ‘the new meaning to the old theme. Sadly, one of the main collaborators, sculptor Dušan Džamonja passed away before the mosque was completed.
The successful ‘playing’ with basic geometric shapes led to the fact that the building is considered more as a functional sculpture, intended for culture and religion, rather than the usual architectural building. The monumental indented sphere with a stainless steel protective layer, composed out of six spherical sections in the contours and glass crevices in which appears the Islamic half-moon symbol, rises from the square paved in travertine stone which had reminded Džamonja of desert sand. The square underneath the underground level of the Islamic Centre was conceived as a pedestal in the centre of which is the mosque with a 23-metre-high minaret.
The complex is decorated with three fountains since the element of water has a special meaning as a symbol of purity in Islamic architecture. The first level under the mosque contains hospitality facilities open for all users, a multi-purpose hall for various social and cultural gatherings, offices and verandas – special rooms intended for discussions among its female attendees. The Islamic Centre includes classrooms for religious classes and a kindergarten for preschoolers. The complex has an underground garage and an outer area for walks. The section for prayer can hold up to 1,400 people.