Islamische Zentrum Zürich

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Café terrace at the entry

Islamische Zentrum Zürich (Islamic Center Zürich) – Zürich, Switzerland

The Islamic Center of Zürich (Islamische Zentrum Zürich) is a new facility for worship, community, education and the promotion of peace. It will be a special place in the heart of the city, open and welcoming to visitors of all faiths, creeds and ideologies where respectful discourse and camaraderie will foster new friendships and increase understanding between all members of the human family.

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Entry foyer

The current clash of cultures striving to find a harmonious coexistence was a central concept in the design of the building. The roof line follows the edges of the site, the adopted territory, while the structural grid aligns with the Qibla direction facing Mecca. Within the open spaces of the building, the grain of the columns keeps one aware of the spiritual focus of the building.

The spaces within the building which are for worship, ritual or directly related to Middle Eastern history are aligned with the structural grid and thus refer to the holy orientation of Muslim life. This includes the prayer hall, and the adjacent ablution rooms and the hammam as well as the managerial office located on the upper level. The spaces that are more cross-cultural such as the café, the library, and the multipurpose room negotiate the conflicting geometries of the of the building. The forest of columns recalls the Moorish architecture of Spain while being appropriately scaled for modern concrete construction.

The mosque occupies a central position in the composition as befitting its use for worship and prayer. Its octagonal shape is oriented on the Qibla axis and its adjacent rooms reinforce this focus through symmetry. It has thick walls to keep out the noise of the building and maintain a peaceful atmosphere inside. For Muslims requiring ritual cleansing prior to Friday services, ablution facilities are provided for men and women. Storage for shoes is provided at the entrance and there are individual stalls for cleansing as well as two full showers for each gender. The women’s side leads to a staircase in the prayer hall which connects with their prayer area on an upper level. An elevator is also provided for the elderly and the handicapped. Direct access into the mosque by worshipers coming from home is through two sets of double doors, one set for each gender, and the demarcation between the regular area of the building and the clean (taher) zone of the building is made with a change in floor material instead of a different floor height to keep the building accessible to those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility. A skylight in the mosque recalls the traditional crescent and star symbol and is an outward sign to the city of the 5 pillars of Islam – testimony of faith (kalima), prayer (salat), almsgiving (zakat), fasting (sawa), and pilgrimage (hajj).

The library has a grouping of 16 octagonal skylights tilted towards the noontime sun angle on June 8th, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The library is a human institution to house knowledge and truth. For the faithful, the Koran is final uncorrupted word of God, transmitted through the prophet for the guidance of humanity towards their reward in the after-world.

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Library

The hammam is based on the traditional program from Turkey. Equal but separate sides are provided for men and women. A warm room, a hot room and a cold room are experienced in a labyrinthine manner with a long central corridor leading to the hookah room before completing the circuit. Small hexagonal skylights illuminate the rooms with the dim moodiness of ancient bath houses and provide a soothing atmosphere for communal relaxation.

The roof of the building is tilted upwards at 4° with the valley on the east / west axis which passes through the center of the mosque. This intersection highlights the connection between the Mercator grid of secular navigation in the world and moral navigation of the heart focused on God. The pitch of the roof also opens building to the city and gives the Islamic Center of Zürich a welcoming posture. The design of the center avoids literal references to the architectural history of Islam which is partially the source of discord within Switzerland and instead creates a contemporary building that focuses on the universality of Islam and its message of peace, a concept that the host country should be very sympathetic to.

Exhibitions can be staged in the various open areas of the building providing curators with a wide variety of organizational formats. The café can be rearranged to host lectures and films. The public playground is located in the narrow western side of the site to give maximum daytime solar access and pleasant views of the Limmat river. All mechanical services are housed beneath the podium of the building.

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Overview from the Southeast

My God and my Lord:

Eyes are at rest, the stars are setting. Hushed are the movements of birds in their nests, of monsters in the sea; and You are the Just Who knows no change; the Equity that does not swerve, the everlasting that does not pass away. The doors of kings are locked now and guarded by their henchmen, but your door is open to all who call upon You. My Lord, each lover is now alone with his beloved. Am I am alone with Thee.

Rabi’a

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North elevation - click for larger view

The Islamische Zentrum Zürich project was submitted as an entry to a competition held by Foreign Architects Switzerland in February 2010.

To download a high resolution (34 mb) PDF of the competition entry board, click here.