Holy architecture and design – New York based studio L.E.F.T. completed the Lebanese Mosque Amir Shakib Arslan adding a light structure that dialogues with the surrounding landscape and invites people to explore its contemporary interiors. The 100 sqm project includes 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.
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A new civic plaza was created in what was before an adjoining parking space turns the frontage of the mosque into a public square with seating, water fountain, ablution space and shading under a newly planted fig tree.
The new slender minaret is linked horizontally through a gently concave canopy to a curved wall at the plaza level. It delineates a portico for the mosque below creating a transitional space between the interior of the mosque and the street as well as adding privacy for the mosque from the outside.
The envelope of the mosque is strictly formed of thinly sliced painted white steel plates, faithfully angled in a parallel direction to Makkah. When looked at obliquely from an angle, the steel plates stack to compose a complete and comprehensive volume of the mosque. Looked at frontally, the mosque’s volume, through its thin planarity, disappears and blends with its visually rich historical backdrop, momentarily suspending belief in its actual presence.
“Rather than the traditional inert Cube/Dome/Minaret volumetric expression of normative mosque architecture, the design offers a lighter reading of the typology, an ephemeral tectonic presence” Say at L.E.F.T. to Archipanic.
The concave/convex planar surfaces of the new mosque brace the outside plaza and street in an extroverted geometry, and link it to the interior religious space which would have been usually hermetically enclosed.
“As we now know, these two spaces (the religious space within and the public space of the street without) were hybridized in the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings where the public space of the city intersected the public space of the mosque.” Add at L.E.F.T.
On the inside of the existing structure, the minimal intervention involved a ‘white-out’ of the concave surfaces of the vaults, using special Lime mix brought from Aleppo in Syria, as well as the introduction of a new skylight that cuts the vaulted space to register the direction of the Quiblah wall towards Makkah, and bring light towards the Mihrab space.
Through the skylight, one can see the minaret in a visual looping of exterior back to the interior, linking visually the disassociation in typical mosques between the sound and the vision.
Photos by NAME – Courtesy of L.E.F.T.