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Basuna Mosque


History


For 300 years the Abu Stait Mosque has been Basuna’s main mosque. It was built and rebuilt a couple of times. The latest building was completed 70 years ago, on the very same plot in the center of the village, adjacent to the village’s graveyard serving as the main Friday Mosque and the only funerary mosque in the entire village. A flash-flood and a soil subsidence caused by the construction of a neighboring building, inflicted considerable structural damage rendering the mosque unsafe, and so it had to be demolished.

Urban and Architectural


Project Concept The main concept is the mosque as the “House of God”. A physical space, a House for the One who is beyond space and time, which are nothing but His own creatures. “No human vision can encompass Him, whereas He encompasses all human vision: for He alone is unfathomable, all-aware.” [Qur’an 6:103] “[…] there is nothing like unto Him, and He alone is all-hearing, all-seeing” [Qur’an 42:11] This design is intended to look into the architectural expression of the connection between the physical and the metaphysical, the created and the Creator. The House of God houses His will, which is known to us through His books. The Revealed ‘Written’ Book Kitab Allah al-Massttur (Qur’an and Hadith) and the Created ‘Sensed’ Book, Kitab Allah alMandhur, the Cosmos. The Revealed book shows us His will through a prescribed world view and prescribed worship, while the Cosmos shows us His will through natural order and scientific laws which govern physical existence. His will is that we journey back to Him. The journey must have an Orientation. A Qibla, the point of origin and return, the archetypical House of God, which could be understood by creatures only through the Attributes of Divine Perfection, more famously known as the 99 names of God; The House of houses, represented in this project as the “Cube of Cubes”* which is the prayer niche or Mihrab. Contemplating, understanding and devoting ourselves to the ethical implications and spiritual values of the Attributes -within human capacity- is our earthly journey or Israa, which leads us to our Ascension or Miraaj in endless cycles until our earthly life is over and we carry on in another eternal form of life. These cycles of combined horizontal/earthly/physical/bodily interaction with the Vertical/Heavenly/metaphysical/spiritual creates an upward spiralling force, represented in the apparent Hajj-like counter-clock circumambulation of all four columns bearing the main dome, which is formed by 64 circumambulating blocks in each of the 35 vertical courses. The blocks represent worshippers in their attempt to escape their earthly material being, which shrinks in dimension as they leap up from one orbit to the higher orbit, until the last course of blocks vanishes and becomes one with the heavenly dome. The same force gives the minaret its form, which is also topped by the Cube of Cubes confirming the motivation and orientation. The pendentive-domes take their form and orientation from abiding by God’s will in His Cosmos; respecting the wind behaviour and the principles of solar movement to allow for the God-given breeze and light to shower the interior of the mosque while keeping away glare and heat. A prayer of nature. The first thing the worshippers encounter as they turn from the main entrance into the main prayer hall is a single vertical window overlooking the cemetery, which reminds them of the end of their journey before they turn right to the Qibla to begin their prayers; “Stand upright and pray as if it is your final prayer”.

Description


The Old Mosque:

• Prayer Hall (Men only) = 165.31 sqm , with no room for women at all. 

• Structurally unsafe; structural walls cracked and mud roof severely damaged by a surprise flash-flood. 

• No minaret, and not a single minaret in the entire village. 

• Main Entrance to the mosque goes through the bathrooms and the Qibla axis directed towards the toilets. 


The New Mosque:

The new design attempts to increase the capacity of the mosque in terms of the numbers of the worshippers, as well as in the quality of spaces and services. 

A main goal was to also bring forth an element of inclusivity, by introducing praying spaces and services for female worshippers, for the first time in the entire village. 

Project Statement

The location of the Al Abu Stait Mosque in the hot and arid village of Basuna, in the governorate of Suhaj, Upper Egypt, over a site amidst a noisy, dusty and densely constructed area with encroaching residential buildings, a cemetery, cattle frequently moving back and forth on the road and a weekly makeshift small market right outside the main entrance of this place of worship posed a major challenge. The new building must offer peace and tranquillity for its users and so a few requirements had to be met: 

a) Climate control 

b) Noise control 

c) Dust and undesired odors (caused by farming animals passing in the street) 

 d) Urban context and aesthetics 

 e) Budget 

f) Access during construction
  

Approaching every challenge separately made it impossible to arrive at a satisfactory solution. For example, if operable windows were used on the exterior to allow for cross-ventilation that would have meant a poor performance on the fronts of noise, dust and odor control. The decision was to limit openings, at or close to street level, to just the main entrance, while tackling all these challenges at the roof’s higher altitude. 

Budget constraints and limited or no machine-accessibility meant that any solution had to depend mainly on manpower and simple tools. 

The solution was a hybrid roof system; consisting of a concrete beam gridiron, cast in situ, forming a central square (6.0x6.0m) covered with a main dome, and 108 smaller squares (0.82 x 0.82m) partially covered using pendentive-domes, complemented with fixed and operable glass panels allowing natural filtered light and ventilation for low-cost enhanced thermal comfort. 

The main dome was constructed using an Egyptian-made light block made of sand, lime and air, with a density of 0.5 ton/m3, thermal conductivity 0.136-0.132 W/m2.°K, fire rating (relative to thickness) 4-7 hours, sound insulation (dB) 37-48. The remarkable lightness of the block decreased the building’s own-weight, in turn decreasing the required dimensions of all reinforced concrete elements. Its dimensions (100x200x600 mm) were perfect for introducing an original aesthetic, serving the conceptual scheme of the mosque, through employing a special cutting list and a simple staggered tessellation. I had to devise a special steel compass to guarantee the meticulous spatial positioning of every single block regardless of a mason’s skills and accuracy. 

Pendentive-domes are a known traditional element, hardly used as an independent element. Their main use is recognised within dome systems, facilitating the transition from square to octagonal plans to finally receive the circular plan of a dome. 

In the Basuna Mosque, this element was reimagined as an independent unit, with innovated functions; structurally as a roof system, environmentally as a wind-catcher and skylight, and aesthetically as an independent geometrical object, appreciated both from the interior and the exterior -only from the higher buildings overlooking the mosque-. 

The entrance dome is a stacked dome , referencing the historical dome of the Cordoba Grand Mosque, with minor modifications. It serves as a reminder of the rich potential of historical architecture in both the architectural discourse and construction innovations. 

This project presents a hybrid roof system utilizing brick and block masonry, aiming to introduce innovative, energy efficient, economic, sustainable and aesthetically creative solutions. It is an attempt towards a new resilient and meaningful architectural paradigm, which seeks to learn from the past in order to create relevant innovations for the future.

Design program: 

Lower Ground floor (Level -1.80): 

Multi-use hall   = 150.00 sqm

Ablution and W.C = 66.27 sqm 

Storage   = 17.00 sqm 

Machine Room = 8.50 sqm 

Open space and circulation = 73.31 sqm 

Ground floor (Level +1.50): 

Main prayer Hall = 170.00 sqm

Imam’s Room = 17.00 sqm 

Open space and circulation = 100.00 sqm 

Mezzanine floor (Level +5.10): 

Ladies’ prayer hall = 42.75 sqm 

Summary: 

• The multi-use hall is designed to accommodate seasonal increases in the numbers of worshippers, of both genders, during Fridays and the Holy month of Ramadan. It is also designed to serve an array of purposes all year round, such as temporary medical clinics, after-school and literacy tuition classes, etc… 

• There are 4 entrances to the building, two of which could be made accessible for worshippers with special needs, once the roads and infra-structure of the village allows for free and independent movement of people with special needs. 

• The mosque is a hybrid structure incorporating simple skeletal concrete with a roof structure featuring two unique domes and 108 typical pendentives allowing fresh high altitude northern breeze to filter into the mosque, indirect glare-less sunlight to naturally illuminate the interior, and rain-water to be collected and used for cleaning and watering plants. 

• All the materials were sourced to complement the environmentally sensitive approach governing the entire scheme. 

• The pinnacle of the minaret has not be constructed because of budgetary issues. A fund raising campaign is being prepared to allow for the completion of the minaret as per the original design. 

• The mosque has been funded through generous donations, from outside the village, raised by a celebrated Islamic scholar who originates from the village, as well as the contributions of the professionals involved.   




Details

Location

Unnamed Road, Aqsas, Markaz Al Maraghah, Sohag Governorate, Egypt

Architect Name

Dar Arafa Architecture

Year of Build

2019

Area

497 SQM

Drawings

Map

History

For 300 years the Abu Stait Mosque has been Basuna’s main mosque. It was built and rebuilt a couple of times. The latest building was completed 70 years ago, on the very same plot in the center of the village, adjacent to the village’s graveyard serving as the main Friday Mosque and the only funerary mosque in the entire village. A flash-flood and a soil subsidence caused by the construction of a neighboring building, inflicted considerable structural damage rendering the mosque unsafe, and so it had to be demolished.

Urban and Architectural

Project Concept The main concept is the mosque as the “House of God”. A physical space, a House for the One who is beyond space and time, which are nothing but His own creatures. “No human vision can encompass Him, whereas He encompasses all human vision: for He alone is unfathomable, all-aware.” [Qur’an 6:103] “[…] there is nothing like unto Him, and He alone is all-hearing, all-seeing” [Qur’an 42:11] This design is intended to look into the architectural expression of the connection between the physical and the metaphysical, the created and the Creator. The House of God houses His will, which is known to us through His books. The Revealed ‘Written’ Book Kitab Allah al-Massttur (Qur’an and Hadith) and the Created ‘Sensed’ Book, Kitab Allah alMandhur, the Cosmos. The Revealed book shows us His will through a prescribed world view and prescribed worship, while the Cosmos shows us His will through natural order and scientific laws which govern physical existence. His will is that we journey back to Him. The journey must have an Orientation. A Qibla, the point of origin and return, the archetypical House of God, which could be understood by creatures only through the Attributes of Divine Perfection, more famously known as the 99 names of God; The House of houses, represented in this project as the “Cube of Cubes”* which is the prayer niche or Mihrab. Contemplating, understanding and devoting ourselves to the ethical implications and spiritual values of the Attributes -within human capacity- is our earthly journey or Israa, which leads us to our Ascension or Miraaj in endless cycles until our earthly life is over and we carry on in another eternal form of life. These cycles of combined horizontal/earthly/physical/bodily interaction with the Vertical/Heavenly/metaphysical/spiritual creates an upward spiralling force, represented in the apparent Hajj-like counter-clock circumambulation of all four columns bearing the main dome, which is formed by 64 circumambulating blocks in each of the 35 vertical courses. The blocks represent worshippers in their attempt to escape their earthly material being, which shrinks in dimension as they leap up from one orbit to the higher orbit, until the last course of blocks vanishes and becomes one with the heavenly dome. The same force gives the minaret its form, which is also topped by the Cube of Cubes confirming the motivation and orientation. The pendentive-domes take their form and orientation from abiding by God’s will in His Cosmos; respecting the wind behaviour and the principles of solar movement to allow for the God-given breeze and light to shower the interior of the mosque while keeping away glare and heat. A prayer of nature. The first thing the worshippers encounter as they turn from the main entrance into the main prayer hall is a single vertical window overlooking the cemetery, which reminds them of the end of their journey before they turn right to the Qibla to begin their prayers; “Stand upright and pray as if it is your final prayer”.

Description

The Old Mosque:

• Prayer Hall (Men only) = 165.31 sqm , with no room for women at all. 

• Structurally unsafe; structural walls cracked and mud roof severely damaged by a surprise flash-flood. 

• No minaret, and not a single minaret in the entire village. 

• Main Entrance to the mosque goes through the bathrooms and the Qibla axis directed towards the toilets. 


The New Mosque:

The new design attempts to increase the capacity of the mosque in terms of the numbers of the worshippers, as well as in the quality of spaces and services. 

A main goal was to also bring forth an element of inclusivity, by introducing praying spaces and services for female worshippers, for the first time in the entire village. 

Project Statement

The location of the Al Abu Stait Mosque in the hot and arid village of Basuna, in the governorate of Suhaj, Upper Egypt, over a site amidst a noisy, dusty and densely constructed area with encroaching residential buildings, a cemetery, cattle frequently moving back and forth on the road and a weekly makeshift small market right outside the main entrance of this place of worship posed a major challenge. The new building must offer peace and tranquillity for its users and so a few requirements had to be met: 

a) Climate control 

b) Noise control 

c) Dust and undesired odors (caused by farming animals passing in the street) 

 d) Urban context and aesthetics 

 e) Budget 

f) Access during construction
  

Approaching every challenge separately made it impossible to arrive at a satisfactory solution. For example, if operable windows were used on the exterior to allow for cross-ventilation that would have meant a poor performance on the fronts of noise, dust and odor control. The decision was to limit openings, at or close to street level, to just the main entrance, while tackling all these challenges at the roof’s higher altitude. 

Budget constraints and limited or no machine-accessibility meant that any solution had to depend mainly on manpower and simple tools. 

The solution was a hybrid roof system; consisting of a concrete beam gridiron, cast in situ, forming a central square (6.0x6.0m) covered with a main dome, and 108 smaller squares (0.82 x 0.82m) partially covered using pendentive-domes, complemented with fixed and operable glass panels allowing natural filtered light and ventilation for low-cost enhanced thermal comfort. 

The main dome was constructed using an Egyptian-made light block made of sand, lime and air, with a density of 0.5 ton/m3, thermal conductivity 0.136-0.132 W/m2.°K, fire rating (relative to thickness) 4-7 hours, sound insulation (dB) 37-48. The remarkable lightness of the block decreased the building’s own-weight, in turn decreasing the required dimensions of all reinforced concrete elements. Its dimensions (100x200x600 mm) were perfect for introducing an original aesthetic, serving the conceptual scheme of the mosque, through employing a special cutting list and a simple staggered tessellation. I had to devise a special steel compass to guarantee the meticulous spatial positioning of every single block regardless of a mason’s skills and accuracy. 

Pendentive-domes are a known traditional element, hardly used as an independent element. Their main use is recognised within dome systems, facilitating the transition from square to octagonal plans to finally receive the circular plan of a dome. 

In the Basuna Mosque, this element was reimagined as an independent unit, with innovated functions; structurally as a roof system, environmentally as a wind-catcher and skylight, and aesthetically as an independent geometrical object, appreciated both from the interior and the exterior -only from the higher buildings overlooking the mosque-. 

The entrance dome is a stacked dome , referencing the historical dome of the Cordoba Grand Mosque, with minor modifications. It serves as a reminder of the rich potential of historical architecture in both the architectural discourse and construction innovations. 

This project presents a hybrid roof system utilizing brick and block masonry, aiming to introduce innovative, energy efficient, economic, sustainable and aesthetically creative solutions. It is an attempt towards a new resilient and meaningful architectural paradigm, which seeks to learn from the past in order to create relevant innovations for the future.

Design program: 

Lower Ground floor (Level -1.80): 

Multi-use hall   = 150.00 sqm

Ablution and W.C = 66.27 sqm 

Storage   = 17.00 sqm 

Machine Room = 8.50 sqm 

Open space and circulation = 73.31 sqm 

Ground floor (Level +1.50): 

Main prayer Hall = 170.00 sqm

Imam’s Room = 17.00 sqm 

Open space and circulation = 100.00 sqm 

Mezzanine floor (Level +5.10): 

Ladies’ prayer hall = 42.75 sqm 

Summary: 

• The multi-use hall is designed to accommodate seasonal increases in the numbers of worshippers, of both genders, during Fridays and the Holy month of Ramadan. It is also designed to serve an array of purposes all year round, such as temporary medical clinics, after-school and literacy tuition classes, etc… 

• There are 4 entrances to the building, two of which could be made accessible for worshippers with special needs, once the roads and infra-structure of the village allows for free and independent movement of people with special needs. 

• The mosque is a hybrid structure incorporating simple skeletal concrete with a roof structure featuring two unique domes and 108 typical pendentives allowing fresh high altitude northern breeze to filter into the mosque, indirect glare-less sunlight to naturally illuminate the interior, and rain-water to be collected and used for cleaning and watering plants. 

• All the materials were sourced to complement the environmentally sensitive approach governing the entire scheme. 

• The pinnacle of the minaret has not be constructed because of budgetary issues. A fund raising campaign is being prepared to allow for the completion of the minaret as per the original design. 

• The mosque has been funded through generous donations, from outside the village, raised by a celebrated Islamic scholar who originates from the village, as well as the contributions of the professionals involved.