Mayor Mohammad Hanif Jummah Mosque Located adjacent to the Azimpur graveyard in Lalbagh, a historical area established by the Mughals over 400 years ago, the Mayor Mohammad Hanif Jummah Mosque is a threshold space on a 16,500 sqft land area belonging to the Dhaka South City Corporation. Much of the new design was inspired by the Azam Shah Mosque built by the Mughals in the Lalbagh Fort and serves as a departure from traditional mosques in both physical and philosophical designs, combining old and new ideas into a contemporary concept. A key feature derived from the Mughal mosque was the “Shaan” – a type of extended open-to-sky terrace attached to the entrance of the main hall. The Shaan provides additional space to accommodate large numbers of devotees during larger gatherings such as the Jummah prayer on Fridays, Eid prayers, and other special occasions. Any other time, it acts as a social hub for the community. In the new mosque, the Shaan still serves its traditional purposes, but also more. Since the mosque borders Azimpur road on the south and Azimpur graveyard on the north, it acts as a transitional space between the terrestrial and celestial. The mosque as a whole was meticulously designed with structural convenience and spiritual elevation in mind. People entering the Shaan from the south road pass through what is essentially a veil between realms where they are met with the main hall to the east and a bridge of glass and steel framing the graveyard to the north. Upon entering the main hall, we are greeted with a large open space held up by specially designed columns. Instead of traditional cylinders, these columns are shaped like trees with trunks that expand into cement canopies holding up the slabs above them, creating a forest-like environment. This indoor forest features a mix of natural and artificial lighting catered towards creating an elevating experience. Windows along the north and east walls flood the room with daylight while the “Jali” on the south filters light and noise coming from the road, limiting the connection to the terrestrial world so that those inside may better embrace the celestial. Floor and ring lights attached to the columns provide unobtrusive ambient lighting, lending to the natural theme. The floor lights are organized in Qatar lines which additionally indicate where to stand during prayer. These lights activate automatically in the evening and all point upwards in a symbolic gesture of lighting the way up to the heavens. The western wall is made of brick with glass attached to the adjacent ceiling and frosted glass to the floor.
This design choice does not accommodate a “Mehrab” which is traditionally a small alcove cut into the wall for the Imam – a religious leader position – to sit when leading prayers. Instead, the new design features a “Mimbar” in the center, allocating the entire space along the glass portion of the floor to the Imam rather than a small Mehrab. The philosophy behind this choice is that the Imam is to be an enlightened leader and their importance should be reflected in the space allocated to them. The glass directly above allows light to shine on them from the heavens while the frosted glass beneath them symbolizes a body of water representing the purity of their role. The extended space represents the span of their influence but outside of prayer, benches and books are available for anyone to enjoy under the skylight.
The western wall is also plain, touting nothing but the stark red brick it is made of as an abstract for the deep simplicity of the mosque. The north bridge connecting the upper levels of the main buildings runs parallel to the graveyard, creating a cinematographic frame in appreciation of the departed and of life. The south wall of the bridge is made of partly frosted glass upon which a “Surah”/prayer is written while the northern side is more open to provide an unobstructed view of the graveyard. The prayer written on the south glass talks about the inevitable crossing of the proverbial bridge, making the crossing of our bridge of glass and steel more than just a method of moving the body about the mosque, but also a means of moving our spirits.
The building east of the bridge contains the women’s prayer space and management team’s quarters on the upper floor with the ablution space on the ground floor. This ablution space combines traditional and contemporary designs to provide devotees with the best of both worlds. In old times, devotees were provided with open-to-skywatering holes which they could use to wash themselves prior to prayer. Modern designs simply use rows of faucets in front of benches as they are easier to maintain and pose fewer sanitary risks than a common pool of water. The new mosque features both faucets and a partly open-to-sky body of water, giving devotees the option between convenience and tradition. Part of the ceiling is left open above the pool to provide natural ventilation as well as create an earthly connection with rain and sky. Moving back around to the south-west corner of the mosque, the “Minaret”/tower features a modern rectangular design. Traditionally, a “Muezzin” – the person who calls devotees to prayer – would climb up atop the minaret for prayer calls, but the minaret in this mosque has speakers built into the top allowing the muezzin to conveniently use a microphone from below. This freed up space within the tower allowing it to be used as an elevator shaft for those who may need it. This design choice allows the minaret to still retain its traditional role while simultaneously giving it new functionality to improve convenience and accessibility. All in all, the philosophy and thought surrounding the Mayor Mohammad Hanif Jummah Mosque echo these principles of combining tradition with contemporary values. Every choice made from conception to execution was done to build on old ideals and bring them up to modern standards in terms both of function and philosophy.
Rafiq Azam, Ikramoon Nisa, Akter Hosen, Mohiminol Islam
CULT ARCHITECTURE IN CITY FABRIC, PROFESSIONAL COMPETITION, Season 2019/20, Победители