call for papers DAr #3
The mosque. New forms and new characters
Edited by Claudia Sansò
The mosque is the most representative building in an Islamic city, a synthesis of religious and collective space in Muslim life. The first mosques in the oldest Islamic cities were built with a few simple elements. As K.A.C. Creswell writes in Early Muslim Architecture, «At Basra, founded about AD 635, the first mosque, according to Baladhuri, was simply marked out (ikhtatta) and the people prayed there without any building. According to another version, also given by Baladhuri, it was enclosed by a fence of reeds. At Kufa, founded in AD 638, the first mosque was equally primitive. Its boundaries were fixed by a man who threw an arrow towards the quibla, then another towards the north, another to the west, and a fourth to the east. A square whit each side two arrow-casts in length was thus formed. This area was not enclosed by walls but by a ditch only, and the sole architectural feature was a covered colonnade (zulla) 200 cubits long, which ran the whole length of the south side».
Despite the Prophet's words: «A building is the vainest of undertakings, that can devour the wealth of a believer», beautiful and sumptuous mosques have been built throughout the centuries since the Hegira, both modestly sized, the local or neighborhood mosques (masjid) and larger, the so-called “congregational mosques” or “Friday mosques” (masjid jami).
According to Julius Wellhausen, the mosque constituted the foro of early Islam, the place of assembly, where measures concerning Islamic society were taken.
The next issue of DAr intends to investigate, starting from this theory, the theme of the mosque as a collective space as well as a religious building. This analysis is proposed both in order to investigate its typological evolution - from the model of Mohammed's house in Medina to the Ottoman mosques of Sinan - to establish a fertile comparison with more recent constructions, and as an "urban fact" by investigating its role within the urban fabric, especially in the cases of European cities whose morphology is based on different rules of arrangement from those of cities in which the mosque model has been consolidated.
The call for papers will therefore welcome those contributions that investigate the architectural and urban characters of the mosque, with particular attention to the project of new buildings through two tracks:
The latest design experiments seem to signal a change on a formal level, a typological renovation due to the modification that the Islamic rite is undergoing as it is updated to the times and places.
Does the mosque therefore still retain its traditional role as a place of worship and public space, central to the men (and, to a lesser extent, women) of a neighborhood or group?
This section will welcome contributions analysing the forms, typological and spatial characters, and linguistic expressions of the mosque building, especially in its most recent declinations.
The design of a contemporary mosque should probably aim at rethinking a building linked to Muslim worship that must not only be able to manifest in form and character the practise of the Islamic rite, but also " mean" its forms through the relationship they establish with those of the city in an idea of spatial definition that, in the case of new buildings in European cities, encourages integration and the encounter between the Islamic and western worlds.
So what can be the ideas behind an open comparison between the model of the European city and the Islamic model?
This section will welcome contributions that will investigate the role of the mosque in relation to the city, both in Islamic territory - analysing the connection between the architecture of the mosque and the surrounding urban forms - and in the European context, considering the mosque building as a possible device for public and civic sharing.