God is in the details

Spirituality as an emotion is invoked and enhanced by the spatial quality of a religious shrine. Transcending disparate dialects of devotion, the underlying quotient of connecting with a metaphysical supernatural entity is rooted in almost all religious credence’s present in human society.

The power of architecture in facilitating this dialogue is often overlooked and largely undervalued. Be it temples, churches, mosques or monasteries, the inherent dissipation of positivity is uniquely characteristic.

The ingress of light, the diminishing din of the physical world beyond, the divine aura within, all of which are brought in through a prudent use of materials and built forms exemplifying the particular form of worship.

Arches, domes, minarets, spires, gopurams, mandapas, altars and naves all of which embody the facets of art and architecture, are symbolic elements that essay a conventional typology of the place of worship – but the question being, are these symbolisms necessary to invoke spirituality? Or do they just function as a mere typological representation?

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Time and again we come across architects trying to break free of these inhibitive shackles through their designs, even the masters too. The outcome of which is often highly subjective and debatable. Nevertheless, these out-of-the-box ideations pave way for more innovative attempts at delineating differing design derivatives.

The Masjid-e-Haji Abdur Rauf designed by NBZ Architectural Consultants, is a mosque situated in Malegaon, Maharashtra that articulates a judicious juxtapose of traditional Islamic symbolism in a contemporary veneer.

The domes and minarets are reinterpreted in form to depict a monolithic composition of a series of cuboids finished in exposed brick throughout, laid to follow fine lines with precise junctions reflecting spirituality of the form; a design character that reciprocates the simple and minimalistic way of life Islam promotes and propagates.

The spatial orientation is designed to fall in axis with the Qibla (direction of the Kaaba in Makkah), thus the volumes encompassing the prayer hall appears to be skewed from the boundaries demarcated by the adjoining roads.

The stagger of spaces thus formed accommodates the ancillary functions of a mosque such as the office, store, dormitories, ablution areas, toilets and washrooms, thereby facilitating a hassle-free circulation for large congregations of prayer.

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The north and south entry portals into the mosque leads one into a ‘Sehan’ (a secondary prayer space), the former also branching out to a stairway which leads to the mezzanine floor with separate ablution facilities.

This mezzanine level can be used as an overflow prayer space for gents or an exclusive prayer area for women as and when required. The Sehan borders an open court that accommodates a semi circular water body and a plantation court.

This cut-out thus serves as the source of natural light for its immediate surroundings. The primary prayer hall however has an ethereal sense of candor brought out by ambient natural light seeping in through the central domed roof light and two vertical crevices on either side of the west facing ‘Mihrab’ wall.

Wrapped in double skin masonry cavity walls and a hollow clay block insulated roof, the structure is well enveloped to cater to the harsh climate of Malegaon.

The architects therefore have realized and acknowledged the fact that spiritual awakening is undeniably a factor of spatial quality that is perceived through various indices of thermal comfort, passive cooling, lighting so on and so forth.

The Masjid-e-Haji AbdurRauf therefore truly embodies the ethos of the 21st century while still efficiently upholding the Islamic beliefs and sentiments of a place of worship. A design that not merely testifies, but rather irrevocably fortifies the popular expression of ‘God is in the detail’.

Fact File

  • Project: Masjid-e-Haji Abdur Rauf
  • Location: Malegaon, Maharashtra
  • Architects: NBZ Architectural Consultants
  • Design team: Late Ar. Noor Aboojiwala, Ar. Bakir Zafar, Ar. Sunil Thanekar
  • Built-up: 900 sq. mt.

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