My intention was to design a continuous progression of levels, from worldly to sacral. The street, forecourt and market as elements with a public function prepare the way, leaving the visitors to decide, forcing no path upon them. Since visitors must first pass a gradient of four meters down to the entrance, it seemed essential to me to allow the mosque to be designed upwards, rising layer for layer. I am in good company as regards the formality of this strategy: Mimar Hodscha Sinan's Selimiye Camii (1567-1574) in Edine is also constructed with the roofed public market (Kapali Carsi) below the mosque, so that the market functions as the worldly foundation of the holy harram above.
Since purity is a must for religious Moslems, it seemed obvious that it would be appropriate to plan a hamam for the mosque. The significance lies here in the progression to the sacral level. A visit the hamam itself to is not compulsory for those going to pray, but in order to provide for the necessity of ritually washing oneself before prayer, a fountain for ablutions (shadirvan) is located in the masjid (see the next image). A wonderful example of a shadirvan within a mosque can be admired in the Ulu Camii in Bursa
(Ottoman Empire, end of the 14th or beginning of the 15th century; Murat I., Beyazit I.)
The last and final, not to mention essential, element of any mosque is the quiblah wall, which shows the believers the holy direction of Mecca. I have designed the quiblah wall, two stories high, as a multi-functional element. First, it unifies the two levels, the ground Floor with its diverse service-oriented functions and the top Floor where the haram, or sacred area is located. Second, the quiblah wall shields the interior from the outer world. Third, together with the cubic structure of the Friday Mosque, it provides for the mihrab. And fourth, it houses the minbar (see the next image), from whose second step the Imam speaks (the first and highest step is reserved for the Prophet himself).
In the actual place of worship, as a result of the horizontal intersection of walls and Floor, the entering beams of light form a triangle showing the direction of Mecca ñ naturally in accordance with the quiblah wall. Parallel, also in triangle form, an opening in the Floor allows one to look through to the shadirvan below on the ground Floor. The elements of the mosque work together here to allow light to fall in the masjid on the ground Floor. The mosque has two differentiated places of worship below the masjid with the shadirvan integrated as a place for personal, individual prayer and above the larger space with communal character for Friday prayers and nevertheless both places of worship serve a common purpose. Just as it is usual in mosques in large cities for the Imam's words to be transmitted by loudspeakers to the believers in the forecourt, here it is possible for the Imam to be heard from all three galleries vis-a-vis from the quiblah wall as well.
An essential element of Near Eastern lifestyle is yet to be mentioned: the rug. Traditionally, it is the ambition of a mosque's founder to donate particularly beautiful and valuable rugs. It is actually every believer's duty to make as generous a donationas possible, be it of rugs or otherwise (this is in accordance with the fourth Pillar of Islam). The mosque administration depends upon these donations because there is no institutional superstructure per se in Islam. For this project, I cannot imagine using industrially manufactured rugs. Spread across the Floor, a colorful mosaic of many small, handwoven, slightly asymmetrical prayer rugs would constitute an amorphous, warm(ing), and human counterpart to the building's strict geometry and relatively cool atmosphere.
The path from the main entrance to the Friday Mosque follows the building's main axis, its function being to prepare for what lies ahead. The path ends at a forecourt, where the main axis crosses the transverse axis invisibly. The same light shafts that illuminate the way one Floor below to the masjid, serve here on the open top Floor to show the way as well. Seven entrances can be reached from this place of intersection. They are the two entrances to the stairways on either side of the transverse axis, the two entrances to the gardens on either side of the cubical structure, the two side entrances one for women and one for men to the House of Allah, and last the monumental central entrance to the mosque itself. The size of this last demands great respect, yet it invites and guides the believers into the interior. Here inside the entrance hall, the next to last level of sacredness has been reached.
Leaving the entry stairs and entering the Friday mosque, the believer leaves the profane world behind. The first point of arrival is the sahn, in the courtyard of the mosque. Usually, following the model of the Prophet's house, this courtyard is surrounded on at least three sides by columned arcades (riwag) that provide shade from the sun or, here in our latitudes, more likely protection from the rain. The believer's way along the main axis splits the courtyard into two areas. The left half symbolizes the desert with its dryness, minimalism, and transcendent nature, it being the desert which was the point of origin for Islam as well as the two other major monotheistic religions, Judaism and Christianity. The right half of the courtyard symbolizes the Garden of Eden and water, the source of all life; accordingly, the roofed ablution pool with its 12 fountains and seating around it is placed here, for those who stop to rest, have a drink of water or perform the ritual of washing before prayer.
A simple cube joined to the earth, with a hemisphere spanning it in reference to the heavens this is the abstract form of Islamic sacred building. Historically, the hemispheric form was a static necessity in the attempt to span large spaces of worship with the materials available at the time. Only reinforced concrete and steel construction have enabled today's building planners to consider alternative forms of creating such spaces. And, the center of attention in the Muslim world the Ka'bah in Mecca is also manifested as a cube. Turning the space so that its diagonal becomes a vertical results in the design and form of the mihrab. This verticalized diagonal rests upon the end point of the shadirwan, which is shaped as a tetrahedron and filled with water. At the other end of the vertical, the space rises to a rudimentary cupola, which has the same tetrahedral shape and is filled with light.
The path in the bottom left of the image offers a second way to approach the building onfoot. A library is located here at the ground level; the library's entrance also serves as a barrier-free entrance to the mosque for all believers. Outside, following the structures inherent in the path design, one reaches only a few steps further the stairwell leading along the transverse axis to the sacred area above, the haram. If one continues onward on the path here, one reaches the five minarets at the end, beyond the scope of this image (the overview images show their position clearly). The minarets in this project are the expression of a completely new exegesis. Each minaret symbolizes one of the five Pillars of Islam,the five duties carried out by all religious Moslems as part of their faith. Consequently, each minaret is named after one of the Pillars. First comes Shahadah (statement of faith), followed by Salat (prayer), Sawm (fasting), Zakah (charity), and finally Hajj (pilgrimage). Formally, the three constrictions in each minaret are a tribute to tradition; they symbolize the three galleries within the mosque.