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08 02 2011
Rotterdam’s Essalam Mosque has opened
Rotterdam’s Moroccan community has been using the Essalam Mosque since it’s official opening in December 2010. The building comprises a prayer hall for 1,500 people and several multifunctional spaces for administration, education, cultural events and social activities.
The Essalam Mosque is situated on the Colosseumweg in Kop van Zuid, a dockland area to the south of the River Maas which has been undergoing radical regeneration. To the southwest the building borders on the multicultural Feijenoord neighbourhood, not far from De Kuip football stadium.
The Essalam Mosque consists of three interlocking spaces: the prominent entrance portal on the west side, the main space in the middle and the semicircular mihrab (a prayer niche that indicates the direction to Mecca) on the southeast side. The spaces are crowned by cupolas. The plot’s footprint of just 800m2 necessitated a vertical organisation of the building and the mosque therefore has four levels. The ground floor has a non-religious function and includes washing facilities for men, a shop, a kitchen and rooms for communal activities. The prayer halls for men occupy the first and second floors (with balcony) of the square central space, while those for women are set on the third floor. These levels also contain a library, the imam’s chamber, offices, classrooms and a formal reception room. The prayer halls intercommunicate across an open well and natural light enters via the imposing, 25-metre-high central dome, which stands on four columns. The two minarets are 50 metres high.
The mosque’s design builds on the tradition of the Mameluke architecture of the 15th century found in Cairo and other styles. Thanks partly to the brilliant drawings by David Roberts, this architecture already dominated the Western perception of Islamic architecture in the 19th century. The employment of symbolic iconography such as cupolas and minarets in the architecture was a deliberate choice, rendering the building recognisable as a mosque from miles around. The cupolas were important for establishing the vertical axis in the interior, which together with the illumination evokes a religious experience. The building is clad with slabs of coloured granite and has accents in subtle blue-grey stone. The main volumes, cupolas and minarets look as if they are realised using a single type of material, with coloured accents in the window arches, mouldings and minarets. The 17th- century Amsterdam church towers designed by Hendrick de Keyser served as another source of inspiration for the gradation of the minarets from heavy to light and for the ornamentation and rooftops.
‘The building is an excellent example of what I call fusion architecture,’ says architect Wilfried van Winden. ‘Because this architectural mindset was taken as the point of departure for the mosque, the faithful see themselves represented in public life. I think it’s important that this makes people feel more at home. The building stands exactly as I designed it in 2000 and the religious community is exceptionally proud of it!’
© photography: Ossip van Duivenbode
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