We are at the edge of one of the most important epochs in religious architecture. Architects working on mosque designs are bound by energy and resource constraints in addition to escalating temperatures and the threat of rising seas, but they are also restricted by the expectations of tradition. Which is what makes Suhail Mohammed Suleiman’s graduation project so remarkable.
Although mosques have not always had minarets, it’s uncommon to find a contemporary mosque in the Muslim world that does not bear the familiar spire from which the adhan is called five times a day. But Suleiman eschews the status quo, calling for rooftop gardens and solar panels instead. And he has dedicated his project to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed – Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in the hopes that it will be built on Saadiyat Island.
Just 23, the ALHOSN University architecture graduate did internships at the Environment Agency Abud Dhabi and the General Authority of Islamic Offices and Endownments, which has given Suleiman’s eco-mosque their blessing.
Designed to be a solar-powered structure constructed out of Corian, an increasingly popular material typically used in interiors, that also features rooftop gardens, the eco-mosque concept evolved out of those two internships.
Corian is not as sensible as earth construction, it is superior to glass – particularly in the desert – since it permits natural light to permeate the building without the solar gain associated with what one an architect working for a leading design firm believes is the worst possible material to use in the Gulf region.
The grey water used for ritual ablutions will be recycled for landscaping and potentially the building’s plumbing, and an open-air courtyard will be covered with fabric in order to provide additional shade.
Conspicuously absent from this design is a dome or minaret. In their stead, Suleiman has modeled two crescent-topped spires of varying height that ostensibly point towards Mecca – one of the minaret’s chief functions.
Although this is not a green light for construction, the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council has awarded the proposal a Five Pearl Rating under the Estidama sustainability framework, according to Alhosn University’s website. But Suleiman is eager to see his unconventional eco-mosque, along with an adjacent Islamic center, take shape amid other sensible projects.
“The young architect is collecting funds for the project’s construction and negotiating with the Tourism Development and Investment Company in a bid to see his project built on Saadiyat Island,” wrote The National. “With its design, the building will be “in harmony” with other modern structures planned for the district,” he said.