It’s a calm oasis immersed within a grove of trees! Cambridge Mosque draws inspiration from local architecture and traditional Islamic principles conceived and designed by Marks Barfield Architects. The building echo geometric patterns of infinite symbolism defining a devout character. Injected as a landmark building to the Cambridge community, the mosque revels in weaving an experience for its devotees that truly reflect purity and serenity.
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In 2007, the planning for a new mosque began on the existing Mawson Road mosque because of capacity issues and latecomers having to pray on the street. In 2009, Marks Barfield Architects won a limited international competition for their inventive and sustainable concept, incorporating a 1000 capacity mosque. The design represented socially and architecturally integrating their cultural philosophies and respecting the neighbourhood. Then intention also paved to announce Islam’s presence in Cambridge as a spiritual and cultural centre for a wider community.
“We didn’t want to create a replica or pastiche of something that existed elsewhere. The opportunity to do something English, British, excited us. Now that there is a significant Muslim community it’s time to work out what it means to have an English mosque” says David Marks.
The design of the Cambridge Mosque proclaims to be a calm oasis within a grove of trees. The architects expressed the link between the local and the Islamic through the language of architectural expression. Mosques throughout the world for centuries have adapted to local building materials, expressing the vernacular, cultural and climatic setting into its design and function. The design team, outlined their inspiration from Islamic and English religious architectural traditions to mature and propel the idea of a British Mosque for the 21st century.
Every pliable curve and strip inside the temple defined in timber elated the personality of the Cambridge Mosque. The timber pillars or ‘trees’ soar up to support the roof tying an interlaced octagonal lattice vault, structurally evocative of the English Gothic fan vaults. The columns mimic the ones that flaunt in King’s College Chapel. Timber, being a sustainably sourced spruce material, explicitly curved and laminated, embellish the fascinating interiors in grand opulence.
Roof lights above the trees wash the prayer hall in ceremonious light. The designers clad the external walls using traditional Gault colour tiles with castellated parapets. They symbolize the union of heaven and earth. The architectural planning transition the worshippers and visitors into a journey as they enter from street through a soulful Islamic garden, to a covered portico and into an atrium, gradually preparing the visitors for the contemplation of the prayer hall, that orients toward Mecca.
Kufic script superimposes the walls of the mosque, decorated by a geometric formation. The bricks arranged upon the walls contain a message formed by square Kufic calligraphy – a style of Arabic script traditionally used for transcribing the Quran and for architectural decoration. It says: “Say he is God, (the) one” repeated with rotational symmetry. Geometric art also serves a religious purpose representing “what lies behind the manifest world” embedding all about the building.
Cambridge Central Mosque placates as a holy place of tranquillity, and they stream a natural breath, elevating every soul to open their mind to greatness and sacred simplicity. From every microelement to the macro, the design, the art, the motifs and patterns, the hidden messages and revelations, each adds to the symbolic expansiveness that frames the mosque in sanctity.
Architect: Marks Barfield Architects
Client: The Cambridge Mosque Trust
Project manager: Bidwells
Photography: Morley von Sternberg
Structural engineer: Price & Myers (construction,) Jacobs (planning)
Timber engineer: Blumer Lehmann
Building services engineer: Skelly & Couch
Landscape architect: Emma Clark with Urquhart & Hunt
Geometric artist: Professor Keith Critchlow
Cost consultant: Faithful & Gould
Acoustic consultant: Ramboll
Fire consultant: Harris TPS
Approved inspector: MLM
Timber consultant: Smith & Wallwork Engineers
CDM principal designer: Faithful & Gould
Planning consultant: Bidwells
Prime contractor: Gilbert-Ash