ideas on the brit-mosque

The Muslim population is the fastest growing faith group in the UK, and mosque building has expanded exponentially over the last 50 years, reflecting this demographic trend.

The mosque is amongst the newest architectural typologies in Britain, with a 120 year history, and around 200 purpose built examples across the country. It is a contentious, fluid, and constantly evolving social and architectural object. As such it offers unparalleled opportunities for architectural exploration.

Makespace have been working on a series of mosque designs in London and beyond, and in each have been trying to develop a contemporary language for Islamic architecture that can be considered as a British evolution of the Islamic tradition.

A key aspect of mosque design lies in the close working relationship the architect has with the mosque committee and local community. Mosques are mostly small and local, set up and supported by local people. Therefore the building must have a resonance with its users and meet their practical and symbolic needs.

Each mosque is therefore a negotiation between the communities’ expectations, the requirements of local planning policies, and the architect’s vision.

Mosques committees often have particular expectations of what a mosque should look like. These ideas are often rooted in certain interpretations of Islamic history, which centre on the architectural elements of the dome and minaret. The form of these elements and the style of their decoration has varied throughout Islamic history, depending on which culture implemented them.

We believe that an indigenous British Islamic architecture is a continuation of this process of interpretation and reference to tradition. As there are no actual requirements of what a mosque needs to be, other then the prayer being oriented towards Makkah, the formal responses are open to interpretation and suggestion.

Mosque building in Britain is a sensitive and intricate process. As architects we are negotiating the complexities of the urban fabric, the desires and politics of a mosque community, the weight of Islamic architectural history, and demands of rapid cultural change.

Eid Greeting 2010