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 sought to return to a simpler design that is less focused on the mosque as an icon, and more as a social space. Al Warqa’a Mosque 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 socialize in after prayer; in this way it is seen as an extension of its immediate environment.
Ibda’s integration of this concept in Al Warqa’a Mosque can be seen in the seamless transition into the space from the outside; with no boundary wall defining the premises of the mosque, worshippers can enter the mosque from three different sides of the riwaq (hallway) surrounding the prayer hall. This increased accessibility creates an oasis-like effect that emphasizes the notion of the mosque as a communal space. Defining access into the haram (holy space)through the sahn (courtyard) is designed to create a spatial shift that gradually takes worshippers from the busy street environment to the serene space of worship through a series of playful and inviting arches. The sahn also serves the functional purpose of allowing more space for people to pray during Friday prayers or other high traffic seasons such as the holy month of Ramadan and the two Eids.
Upon entering the sahn, worshippers are met with a striking minaret structure located at the corner of the courtyard. Designed as a white free standing element that is adorned with patterns, the minaret becomes a unique amalgamation of minimalist and traditional influences. Beyond the sahn, the interior of the mosque is an intimate, yet brightly lit space that is uninterrupted by columns – usually a facet of the larger mosques prevalent in the region. Demarcated by a floating bridge that intersects the space, the women’s prayer hall is at once private and contained within the uniformity of the haram. The sensitive treatment of the women’s area is in contrast with many such spaces in other mosques in which the women’s prayer hall is segregated to a large degree, typically relegated to the rear mezzanine level or in closed rooms altogether. The bridge structure also insures that there is no sound obstruction or delay during congregational prayer times or khutbas (sermons).
Conceptually and spatially, the architects incorporated the theme of light both as a physical component and a spiritual element in the design of the mosque. An emphasis on natural light is created through a skylight that wraps around the entire space, producing a diffused effect that gives the interior an ethereal sense of brightness. Light also plays another role. It serves to call attention to the movement of the sun as a catalyst in the changing prayer times, the constant motion becoming a visual reflection of their daily cycle. This concept of motion is additionally integrated into the pattern design in the mosque. Based on an abstracted flower relief, an alternating pattern of openings on one side of the floating bridge creates an intricate play of light and shadow that further underlines the notion of movement and change in prayer times.
The materiality and design of the Al Warqa’a Mosque reflects a mindfulness to the locality of the structure. Using Saudi Sandstone for the external façade, the mosque becomes an extension of the desert environment it is located in. The sandy outer façade contrasted with the stark white interior of the mosque reinforces the notion of the mosque as a sanctuary in the neighborhood – a type of retreat from the harsh elements of the material world.
Architects: ibda design
Location: Dubai – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Architect in Charge: Wael Al Awar, Kenichi Teramoto
Area: 1400.0 sqm
Project Year: 2016
Photographs: Sadao Hotta