New mosques Religious architecture as a symbol of integration

In Germany there are over 2000 Muslim houses of worship. These include so-called backyard mosques and musallas or prayer rooms that are housed in ordinary non-sacred buildings. Only about 100 new German mosques have been built in recent years. Usually these mosques feature the typical characteristic elements: a dome with one or several minarets. There are, nevertheless, some new building projects that stand out with innovative concepts to create an authentic symbiosis of traditional Islamic architecture and simple modern design.

Islamic Forum in Penzberg Islamic Forum in Penzberg | Photo: Ralf Gerard Sacred Islamic architecture has always adjusted to different cultural groups and this has led to individual architectural styles. A mosque can be an intact building or just a loosely enclosed space - the original Arabic word meaning “place of prostration“. As with Christian houses of worship, the mosque must be consecrated, but it does not have to comply with such stringent rules of design. There are pagoda mosques in China, for example, and temples in Indonesia. Modern mosques are to be found in the Arabian region, there are buildings made of clay in the Sahel region and ,mosques with column halls, the most famous of these being the Mezquita in Córdoba that is now Spain. And although it is the popular believe, a mosque does not have to have a dome.

An essential and clear modern architecture with ornamental elements

Islamic Forum in Penzberg Islamic Forum in Penzberg | Photo: Alen Jasarevic Some new mosques recently been built in Germany take a different design approach. One excellent example representing this new style is the Islamic Forum in the small town of Penzberg in Upper Bavaria. It was built by the Augsburg-based architect Alen Jasarevic from 2003 to 2005. For the community of Penzberg with its multi-ethnic structure Jasarevic has created a building that boasts an essential and clear modern aesthetic design and relays a spirit of modernism. It is nevertheless still clearly distinguishable as a mosque, featuring a 15-meter high minaret in stainless steel that is embellished with Arabic calligraphy. The beauty of this decorative design becomes most evident at night when it is illuminated from the inside. The main feature of the flat L-shaped building is the prayer room that can be viewed from the outside through a full-height decorative blue glass facade. On the side of the building facing the road there is a library, that is open to the public, the administrative area and also an apartment. The remaining facade is clad in pale Jura Rustica limestone. Two high inclining wall panels form the entrance on which verses of the Quran are engraved in German and in Arabic.

A meeting place for all religious faiths

Before construction of the mosque could commence there was a lengthy communication process that lasted several years. Besides having the support of the Penzberg municipality itself, the local press and the people of Penzberg also expressed their wish for the planned modern building. It was also decided that the protestant vicar, the mayor of Penzberg, the Imam and the architect would go to Sarajevo to gather information on the latest mosque designs. Since its official inauguration the mosque has been offering a host of social programmes to people of all religious faiths, making it a meeting place for the religious community and for the whole of Penzberg. As a result of this development there is still widespread acceptance of the mosque – something that this not a matter of course in Germany today.

Euro Islam architecture

Islamic Centre in Wolfsburg Islamic Centre in Wolfsburg | Photo: Islamic Centre Wolfsburg Many of the recently built mosques in Germany were also preceded by a communication process of similar intensity. Now, featuring a modern style that boasts confidence, they represent a new integrated Islamic architecture, the “Euro Islam” (Welzbacher). Another prime example is the Islamic Community and Cultural Centre that was built in Wolfsburg from 2004 to 2006 by the architects Koller-Heitmann-Schütz. This centre offers Muslims, living in the town since the nineteen sixties, a place of worship for the very first time. The set back dome of the mosque is hardly recognisable from the road and there is no minaret. The horizontal block adjoining the high mosque building, that houses a library and other communal rooms, is dominated by a deep copper roof that resembles the style of Art Déco buildings rather than traditional Ottoman architecture.

“Jewellery Box” in Moers

Diyanet mosque in Moers Diyanet mosque in Moers | Photo: Paul Ott The Diyanet mosque in Moers is another project that integrates Islamic tradition and modern architecture. It was opened after a 4-year planning and construction phase on the Römerstrasse and shows up well with its golden facade - that also led to the building being called “Schmuckkästchen” or “Jewellery Box“. The facade is decorated with ornamental elements that resemble Islamic jewellery. The height and proportions of this compact building nevertheless blend well with the built-up environment.

Minaret with a new design

Quite a different aesthetic link between Islamic and European culture was established by the artist Boran Burchhardt in 2009. In cooperation with the Hamburger Centrums-Gemeinde (Hamburg Islamic community centre) he restored the twin minarets of the Steindamm Mosque, which were in fairly poor condition, and painted them with a chequered pattern of green and white hexagons. Green is the colour of the Prophet, while the hexagon is the basic shape used in Islamic ornamental design and also resembles the design on a football, thus representing a sport that is very popular among all cultures. The minarets still sparkle with their exceptional pattern and are a humorous symbol that helps encourage integration and living together respectfully.

References

Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e. V. (Hrsg.): Kubus oder Kuppel. Moscheen – Perspektiven einer Bauaufgabe, Tübingen 2012

Bärbel Beinhauer-Köhler, Claus Leggewie: Moscheen in Deutschland. Religiöse Heimat und gesellschaftliche Herausforderung, München 2009

Moscheen in Deutschland, fotografiert von Wilfried Dechau / Mosques in Germany, photographed by Wilfried Dechau, Tübingen/Berlin 2009

Christian Welzbacher, Euroislam-Architektur. Die neuen Moscheen des Abendlandes, Amsterdam 2008