Mosque of the Light in Dubai
Nikolaos Karintzaidis, Intl. Assoc. AIA
The purpose of the Mosque of the Light is not only to serve as a place where people can come together for prayer, but also to reflect the daily vitality to the Muslim Ummah (community).
The mosque is the heart of the surrounding Islamic community. Muslims gather here as equals to pray 5 times a day. Afterwards, they linger to exchange news, to strengthen relationships, to organize charitable work and to maintain the local community. Even though Muslims can pray wherever they like, places for communal worship have been a feature of Islam from the earliest days.
The inspiration for the Mosque of the Light came from the light fabric structures erected in public spaces of Dubai, such as the tents on the souq market, as well as the Arab Bedouin's tent. Under such structures people gather to socialize and exchange ideas. Today, civic participation is commonly promoted in mosques. Because of the importance in the community, mosques are used for preaching peaceful coexistence with non-believers, even in times of adversity. The mosque is thus an ideal place for the youths to strengthen the spirit of virtue and increase awareness of the current issues.
The Mosque of the Light is designed as a contemporary reinterpretation of traditional elements of Arab vernacular architecture. The design addresses sustainable aspects while maintaining historical cultural continuity and defines a space of social interaction. The skin of the building develops as a mechanism that regulates the natural light and creates interior spaces with filtered light - an effect often used in Islamic architecture with its climate-oriented strategies. A flexible building framework that can be easily assembled forms the main structure. On this simple structural steel framing, series of fabric elements are hanged in order to define the interior space. Fabrics are distributed following a specific modulation and are used not only as cladding material but also as spatial organization elements, as they allow for the powerful plasticity of the design while responding to specific functional demands. The overall arrangement works as a vertical louver that provides shade and glare protection against the harsh sun and also animates the elevation with the breeze.
The challenge was to provide a visual rhythm in relation to the building's structure that results in a pleasant, spacious, cool and shady environment. The light steel structure and the array of fabrics exchange their properties, creating semi-open / semi-closed spaces, while accentuating the interplay of light and shadow. The curtains that are used in lieu of walls subdivide the vast space and underline the human scale, as their light and tactile nature responds to the circulation of people between them. The layering of textiles defines the gradual transition from exterior to interior. The undulations of fabrics create a changing rhythmical pattern enhanced by the continuous play of light and shadow that changes throughout the day. Interior is flooded with filtered sunlight that celebrates the patterns of everyday human rituals. The cooling pond around the mosque, utilizes grey water from the surrounding buildings. An embedded sprinkler system uses the grey water in order to moist the fabrics on the perimeter of the building envelope. The gaps between the curtains allow for the air to circulate and through the resulting evaporation they cool the space, enhancing the natural ventilation.