Page 1



Introduction Islam

4 5

Sacred Space


Mosque Typology


The Granite City


Design Phase Fire + DDA Retrospective Bibliography Appendix

22 61 62 64 65 Integrated Ben



Year 4 2






A garden which can be reached only by passing through a series of outer gardens keeps it secrecy. A temple which can be reached only by passing through a sequence of approach courts is able to be a special thing in a man’s heart. The magnificence of a mountain peak is increased by the difficulty of reaching the upper valleys from which it can be seen The beauty of a woman is intensified by the slowness of her unveiling The great beauty of a river bank- its rushes, water rats, small fish, wild flowers - are violated by a too direct approach; even the ecology cannot stand up to the too direct approach - the thing will simply be devoured Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language, 1977



“ A Mosque For Aberdeen” is the project on which this Integrated design report has been built over the period of September 2012 - May 2013. Currently the Islamic influence within Aberdeen is limited. The Current “mosque” is three reclaimed houses that sit on the outskirts of the city centre. Combined together these houses serve the Muslim population of Aberdeen with a place to meet and prayer. With the number of Muslims in the area at 5,000 + the need for a larger mosque is clearly obvious. At present the Muslims of Aberdeen are isolated and have no status within the community. The tension between the sacred and the secular has been around for many generations and is still present in today’s culture, it is hoped through the power of architecture the mosque can serve its function as a place of worship but also integrate Islam into the community by offering public faculties to encourage people outside the faith to explore the mosques walls. Stereotypes associated with Islam are hard to avoid with the world’s current state. With recent acts of terrorism shocking the world in the West, the finger has been pointed at the Islamic religion. For Muslims living in the West life has become for many a troubled time. It is this stereotype that often leads people to have the wrong perception of what the Religion is all about. It is this Cultural enigma that magnetized me to this project with the chance to try and resolve these issues through design. Countless number of Mosques have been built outside of the West, but few are successful in providing the right kind of atmosphere and function that is required to create a “ Sacred Space” . At its core a mosque is a place to surrender yourself to god and worship, it was therefore essential to discover my own interpretation of what a “Sacred Space” actually is, and what is involved to create such a phenomenon. Beyond looking at sacred spaces It became clear very quickly to me that to be able to build a mosque for this faith in Western Europe I must submerge myself in the religion and find its true meaning, using the architecture of the mosque to dissolve peoples misconceptions and represent Islam’s true identity in Aberdeen. The notion of a “sacred space” is very complex and involves a range of aspects: Architecture, geography, core beliefs, community and ultimately the person’s soul. It is the amalgamation of these aspects combined that can be breathe taking and make for an overwhelming space. Among the hustle + Bustle, almost certain uncertainty of the secular world there must be places that offer a spiritual refuge, renewal, hope and peace These places do exist; they are both holy and sacred. Places where people meet the divine and connect with something bigger than their being. The Mosque project has the opportunity to create a space of worship. Not a space filled with doctrine and dogma or religion. Not an experience of trying to abandon this place where we are. The mosque gives the opportunity for people to reclaim their own personal worshipping experience.


Islam - Submission - Surrender - Obedience

The religion of Islam has been around for many years and makes up for 25% of the world religious people at an estimated 1.57 billion. Despite the massive numbers people in western culture know very little about Islam and its traditions. Often tarnished with poor stereotypes the Religion has had a hard time fitting into the western world and is often discarded from communities. The mosque project opens the opportunity to break down some of these social barriers currently in front of Islam and make a connection with the other people of the city. Muslims pray 5 times a day, the evening prayer being the most important of them. Not all these prayers must be attended by everyone but it is encouraged people make an effort to connect with their god. The direction to which they pray is very important; whenever possible they will always pray facing the Kabba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. They do this as this is the birth place of the prophet Muhammed, the man who was sent by god to teach the beliefs of Islam. The Quran is the holy book in Islam. It has 114 chapters and is memorised by millions of Muslims across the world. It is the ONLY sacred thing in the Religion and is very precious. In Islam a lot of emphasis is placed on the Idea of community. The earliest mosques dating back millions of years where not driven by the prayer space but by the courtyards were everyday activities took place. Today many mass gatherings occur for eating meals and celebrating festivals. This feeling of community must be extended to outside the Muslim community if it is going to successfully embrace its context. Despite many Mosques being built in the western world very few are successful, particularly in Britain. The stereotypical view of a mosque is a building with ornate decoration and a dome on top, this typology often drives people away from the mosques and acts as a “shield� to the people inside. Despite this appearance Muslims do not want to drive people away, as previously stated they welcome the idea of community. Its therefore important the new Mosque distils this typology and creates its own identity while still paying respect to Islamic tradition.


The Quran makes it abundantly clear that Islam, the complete submission of man before God, is the one and only faith consistently revealed by God to mankind from the very beginning. This singular fact carries incredible weight within Islam. All Muslims are eternally devoted to the faith and hold together a strong community. This strong community must be catered for in the project, providing spaces for large gatherings and activities to take place. Ablution (wudu) is a fundamental task all Muslims require to take part in before prayer. Despite this act taking place several times a day, importance should be placed on the procedure and the environment it happens in. It is not only a requirement in the faith but acts as a cleaning tool mentally in the eyes of god, The Muslims enter the prayer space clean of sins and evil after the ritual. Its therefore essential it does not become a secondary room within the project. Muslims believe that god created angels that watch over them on earth. Created by light they are said to always obey god and his requests. The idea of angels being created by light is a strong metaphor and one that can be converted into an architectural idea. The project will use the idea of angels “guiding� people through the Mosque, ultimately leading them to the sacred space and far removed from the secular world. Social gatherings and the communal eating of food play a big part in the day to day lives of Muslims. Preparing meals and eating them together is highly encouraged and tend to take place in large numbers, without a place to gather and carry out these activities the community may become separated and lack a unity. The mosque must therefore provide a multipurpose space were Muslims can not only eat, but also hold other events such as weddings, open days and activities. Despite the stereotypes people in the West are led to believe, The religion of Islam is in fact very open and welcoming to people of all walks of life. Its holds no prejudice over anyone in any religion and is only concerned with following gods wishes to the upmost. To make sure the Mosque does not become isolated within Aberdeen it’s important to create an inviting atmosphere that does not acts as a shield to people outside the religion.


The Quran


Wudu - Ablution

Zakat - Charity





A “sacred space� at its most basic is a place which invites the contemplation of the divine, and encourages people to explore spiritual openness. In this space people do not necessarily find answers to their problems, but rather where questions are asked, conversations occur, rituals take place, dances are performed, songs are sung, and silence rings. Religious buildings in today’s world stand as monuments to the universal search for meaning. Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, Temples, they all represent the spirituality of those who built them. Ultimately they all ask the questions to life we long to know, who are we? Why are we here? Where did we come from? Where are we going? This longing for answers has lead people to try and connect with spirits greater than themselves searching for answers. Aztec Sacrifice

Ise Shrine

Human sacrifice was a religious practice characteristic of pre-Columbian Aztec civilization, as well as of other mesoamerican civilizations such as the Maya and the Zapotec. The extent of the practice is debated by modern scholars. Some believe the sacrifices were carried out in response to the growing population at the time and others believe it was used as a political tool for intimidating and controlling subordinate or potentially hostile peoples. Whatever the case the ritual became an integral part of the culture. The sacrifices would take place on the steps of the pyramids each step taken rising to the peek at which the sacrifice would be made.

Ise Grand Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to goddess Amaterasu-mikami, located in the city of Ise in Mie prefecture, Japan. Officially known simply as Ise Jing is in fact a shrine complex composed of a large number of Shinto shrines centered on two main shrines, Naik and Gek. The approach to these shrines is what makes them a sacred space. To reach the inner most sanctum of the grand shrines one must first pass through several precinct walls, creating threshold spaces to pass through. The precinct walls also give the sacred space in the middle protection and significance.


Forbidden City - Beijing

Kirk of St Nicholas - Aberdeen

The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. For almost 500 years, it served as the home of emperors and their households . The design of the Forbidden City, from its overall layout to the smallest detail, was meticulously planned to reflect philosophical and religious principles, and above all to symbolise the majesty of Imperial power. A series of courtyards and spaces must be passed through to reach the large temple in the centre. The sensation of moving through unknown space is therefore an integral part in creating a sacred space.

The Kirk of St Nicholas is a historic church located in the city centre of Aberdeen, Scotland. It is now officially known as the “Kirk of St Nicholas (uniting)” as it is membership of both of the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church. It is also known as “The Mither Kirk” (mother church) of the city. Like many other religious buildings the journey to the sacred part of the building is emphasised. In this case the journey is through thresholds of entrance gate, graveyard, entrance, nave and finally the church itself. The inclusion of trees through this journey also creates a new dynamic between thresholds.


The boundary or enclosure is an important condition of a sacred space. These boundary’s act as gateways or portals that create different realities. Two realities, privileged from the less privileged, the old too the young and the sacred from the profane. Because a sacred space is set apart from its surroundings the sense of arrival is an integral part of the spiritual experience. It’s clear that a sacred space is one removed from everyday places. Great value is placed on arriving at a sacred space. The journey of reaching a sacred space is just as much a part of the ritual as being in the space. The project must emphasise this journey and take people through a “layering” process to reach the sacred space. In Islam the mosque is not a sacred part of the religion. The stereotype we associate with mosques is mere smoke and mirrors to what really is important to the religion. Of course a “sacred space” helps people perceive the spirit they are looking for but ultimately it’s down to the individual to make this connection, the physical world around them is left behind in this transition, therefore it is important that the mosque, and particularly the prayer hall becomes like a “blank canvas”, A place were spiritual connection is encouraged, The walls will “whisper” but not shout, the aura of the power will linger but not force itself upon you. The mosque becomes a place where the antidote to the frenzy in the secular world can be discovered.

Sacred Space - Inner Most Sanctum







As a group one of the initial responded to the mosque brief was to analyse several mosques throughout history to gain a better understanding of the building typology. The mosques studied covered a wide range of geographical locations as well as styles and types. My own observations during the analysis showed that the architecture of the mosque is composed of several elements developed over time. These elements are what we recognise as the symbol of the mosque today. However these elements hold no sacred significance in the typology of the mosque. The mosque is only defined by its orientation towards Mecca. As these elements are not ‘essential’ to a mosque the question of whether they should be used in a UK mosque project arose. The following 6 diagrams show the Architectural Elements I understand to represent the typology of the mosque.

Dome The dome or Kubba is one of Islamic Architecture’s most symbolic Architectural Elements. The shape of the dome helps to create a unifying space, form and volume combine into one to draw the eye towards the sky and create a spiritual realm.



The Minaret is attached to the exterior of the mosque and serves as a landmark and in the daily life of community prayer. Its importance as a architectural element rests in its height as a tower and beacon both used to indicate the place of worship.





Courtyard The courtyard in a mosque is typically constructed in a serene manner. Its primary function is to accommodate the large numbers of Muslims during Friday prayers. It can also act as a buffer zone between the entrance and the prayer hall.

Qiblah Wall


The only essential element of Mosque Architecture is the inclusion of the Qiblah wall which faces towards Mecca. It is not essential all spaces within the mosque face towards the Qiblah. However it is essential the prayer hall does. The importance of the wall lies in the fact it guides the Muslims physically and psychologically into one place.


When mosques are in extremely dense urban areas like Morocco , Cairo etc there has to be an entrance portal . The entrance portal gives the impression of worshippers passing into another world - away from the secular happenings behind them. This element is one that can serve mosque design in any geographical location.

The Granite City - Aberdeen

Aberdeen sits on the North-East coast of Scotland between the river mouths of the dee and don rivers. With an estimated population of 220,000 people it is the 3rd most populous city in Scotland. The famous “Granite City� nickname derives from the mid 18th century - 20th century granite boom that happened in Aberdeen. With several quarries located in the area, Aberdeen was at the for front of Quarry mining in Europe and helped the locally economy grow. Many of the buildings located in Aberdeen have distinct Granite faces which gives the city an overall grey aesthetic during periods of rain, however the granite also sparkles in the sun giving the city a distinct urban fabric. The granite industry gradually declined over the course of the 20th century when France began to import better quality granite into the UK. Aberdeen’s constant economical growth came from the discovery of north sea oil on the coast, in the early 21st century. It remains one of the oil capitals of Europe and a desirable place for young people to make a living. The site sits on the intersection of Rose Street and Thistle street. Currently there is a row of Victorian houses that sit on the site edge, it is proposed for this project that these are removed to allow us a prominent urban corner block in the city fabric. With the removal of these 3 buildings the site area is 1600m2 and encompasses two large elevations on Rose and Thistle Street. The roads are surrounding the site are particularly busy and pedestrian foot flow around lunch and tea times is high. The main thoroughfare, Union Street, sits approximately 150 meters from the site and is the central retail street is Aberdeen.




Ros t



Thistle Street

Thistle Street e Ros




tre nS






S on i n U


tre nS


Aberdeen - Historical


Aberdeen City Centre - 1860

Aberdeen City Centre - 1900

Aberdeen City Centre - 1920

Aberdeen City Centre - 1950


Building Use



Listed Buildings

Religious Buildings 16



Thistle Street facing North

Rose Street facing East

Thistle Street facing South




Union Street is the main street and retail thoroughfare that runs through the centre of Aberdeen. The Street, sometimes known as “ the Granite mile” is an iconic 1 mile strip that runs from east to west in the centre of the city. Originally built to solve the issue of visitors navigating through cramped streets , it now is home to many high end retail units and key transport links in the city. Ground level on the street is dominated by retail units creating heavily foot traffic at all times of the year. The shopping centers of St Nicholas + bon accord and Trinity shopping centre bring many visitors on a daily basis. The Kirk of St Nicholas is a historic church which lies on the street edge. It is also home to several nightclubs ,bars and cinemas. Heights of the buildings range from 2-5 stories with most ground levels being retail with residential above. The facades of the street are a prominent feature in the city’s image. Granite was mined locally and was used to construct many of the ornate facade seen on the street today. The heavy permanent look of the facades make the buildings seem “rooted” to their context and something that should be considered in the design of the mosque.


Rose Street

Rose Street runs perpendicular to Union street and heads north towards the site. Directly off Union street the road remains heavily retail based but more focused on local business’s, cafes and restaurants which fill the ground level, above the retail level in most cases are residential flats. Further North the road transitions into more commercial and residential buildings. As the site is directly off Union street there is a lot of traffic and pedestrians, particularly at lunch times and rush hour. The cross junction where the street joins thistle street also adds to traffic problems with no traffic lights. The street remains mainly only 2 storey’s high, relatively small compared to the neighboring Union Street.



Thistle Street runs parallel to union street roughly 150 meters north of union street. It meets Rose Street at the corner of the site creating a distinct node. Much like rose street, it is predominantly small retail shops and local business’s that inhabit the ground level, with residential flats above.




A selection of material images taken from the surrounding areas of the site.


R u b l i s la w

Quarry Research into the history of Aberdeen ultimately led to the discovery of Rubislaw Quarry. Originally found in 1740, the quarry is located in the West end of Aberdeen. Over a period of 200 years an estimated 6 million tonnes of Granite was excavated and traded all across the globe. The granite was also used locally to construct local buildings of importance and line the facades of Union Street.

The image of the fine grey granite pictured began to spark a chain of ideas related to the mosque design. The importance of Quarried granite is important to the history of Aberdeen and something the mosque project could pay homage to.

Forgotten Thresholds Kreuzberg Analysis At the start of the year the majority of the year travelled to Berlin for a week to visit several different buildings and experience German culture. Within smaller groups in the year we were given a particular part of Berlin to study and analyse during the visit. My group were situated in the area of Kreuzberg which is home to some particularly interesting IBA housing that became the focus of our study. During the trip I had no pre-conceived ideas of what the studies might show or how it may end up affecting my own mosque design. It was only on arriving home and reflecting I was able to understand the area and its important architectural components. The area of housing we studied lies around 150 metres from a busy dual carriageway. It would be assumed therefore the housing is affected by the noise pollution from the road, however it remains remarkably serene and peaceful. The houses are arranged around a central courtyard. Immediately providing them with a zone sheltered from the outside. The tranquil nature of these spaces is further heightened with the lush greenery and seating areas scattered throughout. It feels far removed from the busy road close by. The most significant observation made about the housing was the use of thresholds to move people into different atmospheric spaces. The road directly off the dual carriageway is lined with trees, a cycle path and generous pedestrian pavements. Moving closer to the housing the texture beneath your feet changes, you change direction and silence serenity begins to take over, until finally you enter the peaceful calm of the central court. Despite being a housing area the study was directly related to the mosque design. The importance of removing people far from the hustle and bustle of the secular world is key within the mosque project. The use of thresholds of alternating atmospheres become essential in delivering the desired calm required for the Mosque and emphasises earlier studies relating to the sense of arrival.


The Brief Schedule of Accommodation -

As this is a mosque project the brief heavily revolves around rooms dedicated to a mosque, however the brief also demands the mosque caters for the wider public in Aberdeen. Providing services which they can use as a way of encouraging social interaction between the two.

Courtyard Space - A large urban space within the block, place to gather, sit and interact within the mosque. Mosque ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My initial reaction was to separate the sacred facilities in he building away from the public facilities. This created a distinct divide in both early plans and the way the programme is located on the site. The prayer hall is the key space within the mosque side of the building and is the end point of the desired journey created in the mosque. The cafe becomes the key space within the public side of the building and should be located on the ground floor visible from the entrance.

Prayer Hall - Large enough to hold 200 Muslims during Friday prayer, simple Aesthetic creating serenity Women’s Prayer hall - A small balcony above main hall, able to hold 50 Muslim women. Storage for Qurans - cupboard or bookshelves to keep Qurans of the floor and safe. Mihrab - Small niche indicating Kiblah wall Gathering Space - A mediating space between public and mosque building for Muslim’s to gather before prayer Male + female ablution - space for the washing of hands and feet before prayer. Male and Female Toilets - Before Ablution Cloak room - Small room supplied for clothing storage Shoe Store- Shelves or room for shoes to be stored Mortuary Waiting Area - an area for families to gather in silence before entering ceremony space Mortuary Ceremonial Space - small intimate space to mourn the loss of loved ones Dead body Preparation Area - Room for storage of bodies before ceremony Imam’s Residence - Large flat provided for Imam and his family to Live in. Offices - small mosque office to deal with the day to day running of the mosque.

My Vision - A building that doesn’t force itself upon its context but rather sits discretely in Aberdeen, almost unknown. - Create a building with invites the contemplation of the divine. - Gives Muslims a building they are proud to worship in. - A building that doesn’t force itself upon its context but rather sits discretely in Aberdeen, almost unknown. - Use the building as a tool to help Islam become integrated into the fabric of Aberdeen - Provide a prayer hall that acts like a “ blank canvas” for Muslims to come pray, simple materials and dependant on light. - Separate the sacred from the secular with the use of thresholds and changing atmospheres. - Introduce a courtyard within the urban block as a gathering place people can enjoy.

Public -----------------------------------------------------------------------------Retail Units - Islamic shops selling Islamic foods and clothing, Cafe - intimate cafe open to the public and related to the courtyard Kitchen - large kitchen area for the cafe and the preparation of larger Ramadan meals. Storage Space - For storing large amounts of food and utensils during Ramadan Library - public library with small study areas Multi-Purpose Hall - double height hall to be used for meetings, confrences and debates within the Aberdeen community. Classroom - Room for public to take evening classes and arts and crafts lessons. Meeting Room - small room supplied for general mosque meetings Public Toilets

- Respond to surrounding historical context of surrounding streets. - A flexible multi -purpose space for conferences, meetings and debates for the public. - A small cafe open to the public, facing out onto a courtyard space - A building that contributes to the city as a whole and a place of serenity and activity. - Use simple material pallet to keep focus on spaces and the activities that take place within.


Sacred +


After separating the programme into public and mosque activities it became apparent the social difficulties between the sacred and the secular had again arisen. It was my intention to make the divide between the two very distinct so the sacred dignity of prayer is kept. A distinct threshold space was envisioned as the perfect buffer between the sacred and the secular.






Having to deal with the sacred and secular side of the design phrase at first seemed extremely challenging and perhaps not solvable. Questioning whether it was acceptable to use traditional mosque elements on the UK brought the introduction of the minaret. I saw this as an opportunity to reinvent the minaret, as its previous function as a calling tower for prayer is obsolete within Britain. In the mosque project the Minaret becomes the portal into the sacred heart of the building. It serves the main threshold space within the building and should be treated as a significant gesture.




Baitul Futuh Mosque, London

Eder Mosque, Hungary


Central Mosque, Saudi Arabia

Great Mosque of Samarra

Al-Aqsa Mosque, Old City Jerusalem

The Great Mosque, Tunisia



Applying the Mecca grid across the city grid of Aberdeen made for very difficult geometries on the site. With the overlaid grid awkward triangular spaces that are difficult to deal with. The conflicting geometries gave many different options in regards to responding to site, using just the Mecca geometry, combining Mecca geometry with the Aberdeen grid or disregarding Mecca and just using the City grid. due to Mecca’s importance in Islam I decided to use the Mecca grid as the ONLY geometry on site, this led to the inevitable creation of awkward spaces that would need to be addressed. Trying to deal with these awkward spaces and geometries involved comparing different plans of building types to understand the impact these “left over” spaces would have. Site with overlaid Mecca grid

Dominican Convent Media, Louis Kahn

Bank of England, Sir John Soane

Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan

A communal living environment, containing individual cells, communal worship spaces, temporary housing and outdoor courtyards, although Kahn uses various sizes of squares to house each of the communal programs like many other projects, the geometries of the Dominican convent occupy the center of the project in a unique configuration to produce several in-between spaces.

The Bank covered over three acres, filling out an irregularly-shaped block in the City of London. It grew in many stages, resulting in a somewhat incoherent arrangement of corridors, rooms and courts. The building expanded as the Bank’s needs changed and increased. Despite the irregular spaces in plan Soane thickened walls around key spaces so they read as such.

The mosque of Sultan Hassan like many mosques in the East, fills a unusually shaped plot deep within the city of Cairo, Egypt. The series of spaces leading towards the prayer hall creates a distinct path that changes direction with the Mecca geometry. Subsidiary spaces are left to fill the awkward spaces created giving prominence to the key spaces and procession.


Initial Massing

Site Model with massing 1:200

Initial Design Sketches

These early images show the direct response to the site following the previous analysis. Initial massing took the form of several blocks composed onto the site. These blocks filled the site retaining the street edge and the urban block. Building up a 3d model of the Mecca grid composed on site began to signify the drastic change in the urban fabric of the city a plan like this would have.

Giving emphasis to the prayer hall became important at an early stage in the project. Initial concepts began to describe how the prayer hall could sit as an object within the plan and marks its importance in the scheme and city wide. A small courtyard space was also explored in early models to see the affect of breaking up the heavy block with an urban space. Key spaces in the plan began to drive the scheme forward. An early design scheme was created using 3 main spaces in the mosque, A courtyard, prayer hall and minaret. The entrance on was placed on the corner of the site and the prayer hall was places in the North East corner to emphasise this journey towards prayer and the sense of arrival I was trying to achieve. The procession was to enter through a narrow passage, into a larger open courtyard, then through the minaret and round to the prayer hall. At this stage the ideas related to Rubislaw quarry were informing the material choice and the desired aesthetic the mosque was to have.


Initial Massing


Prayer Hall Courtyard

Corner Entrance

1:100 Development Models


Initial Massing




Early sections began to investigate the relationship the minaret had with the rest of the procession. It was always intended the minaret would be a large over exaggerated space , a place of pause or contemplation before entering the sacred side of the building. The prayer hall sections begin to speak of a language developed in the corners and there relationship to the minaret. These 2 elements will remain more prominent than any other spaces within the scheme.


Early images of mosque Aesthetic 31



Monolith “One of the most prominent features of the bunker is that it is one of the few modern monolithic forms of Architecture.”

The schemes direction began to directly relate to the ideas of a monolithic structure. The concept of a block on the site and the desired appearance of the building I had in mind all pointed towards a monolith. models were created using layers of card to illustrate the idea of a solid block sitting on the site, The important spaces of the courtyard, prayer hall and minaret were all implemented into these block models to further test massing on the site. The heavy appearance a monolithic structure would deliver was desirable in theoretically “rooting” the Mosque and Islam within Aberdeen.

While the majority of structures are bonded to the ground through their foundations, the bunker has none at all: its centre of gravity replaces them.”

1:200 Layered Card Models





In the publication “ The Thickness of paint” Jonaathan Woolf states :

Research into buildings with a monolithic quality ranged over a long time period beginning with primitive examples of caves and sculptures that were carved to create spaces. Modern buildings have long since tried to emulate the idea of a building carved from one solid object but with new advances in technology for saving time, the same affect is never quiet achieved.

Buddhas of Bamiyan, Afghanistan

Oberrealta Chapel, Rudolf Fontana

Ellora Caves, India

“ A photograph by Robert Polidori, of a room within the city of Petra, shows a pristine cubic volume hewn out of the rock. The nature of the stone reveals different textural and figural qualities of the material when it becomes a floor, a wall or a ceiling. There is no need to ‘put’ the building together, to assemble it, because it is already exists. This, then, is the fantasy of the architect, to sculpt from a single substance that is both structure and surface, with the only remaining questions pertaining to shape and smoothness.”

This blurring of boundaries that usually as we never question as architects has interesting characteristics. using a continuous material within the key spaces within the mosque will give them a unique quality using a monolithic approach.

Petra, Jordan

Holy Redeemer Church, Fernando Menis

Paspels School, Valerio Olgiati

Das Gelbe Haus, Valerio Olgiati

Signal Box, Guyer Architects



Dualities Of

Mass + Void

Mass is a fundamental property of material which expresses itself in the mutual attraction of bodies and in their inertias. My interest in mass went beyond the physical and formal properties . Massive material can be sculpted and molded within reason. A thick massive wall invites openings to be punched in it, recesses to be created and textures to be etched. Continuing the idea of a monolith , exposing the dualities of mass + void became an important aspect of the scheme. The “carved” void spaces created in this process are just as important as the remaining mass left behind. This carved space would be an ideal place for social interaction and creating an outside urban place.

Eduardo Chillida , Spanish Basque Sculptor

Rachel Whiteread, English Artist

A so called “architect of empty space” Eduardo Chillida was a Spanish Basque sculptor that took the theories of mass and void and applied them to his work. His use of negative space as a void in his sculptures questions how we perceive space, constantly forcing us to explore the voids in his sculptures whole creating an inherent tension between solid and void.

Rachel Whiteread work has long been associated with the use of mass and void. Her most famous works are casts of void spaces of everyday objects. From her earlier casts of smaller objects such as hot water bottles to more recent casts of houses, Whiteread’s work constitutes and ever expanding compilation of overlooked spaces. Inverting everyday objects, she is able to create ghostly negatives of them that force us to consider space is a more direct manner.


Giorgio Moranadi, bottles and jugs Morandi’s drawings of bottles and jugs encourage the views to explore past the bottles. It’s in the space between these bottles were the tensions and interest are created. Drawing both the positive and the negative side of the bottles reveal unique qualities dependant on one and other.





Negative Space - A




Although a separate piece of work, the Design Research unit became a study into both monolithic structures and Mass + Void. Entitled “ Negative Space - A catalyst form imagination” The research focused mainly on the St George Church in Lalibela, Ethiopia. it was within this study that the potential of carved space became apparent. The research revealed a unique sacred dignity that these carved spaces held .As well as influencing several design ideas during the year the study stood to highlight how difficult it actually is to create a building in a monolithic style.

Abstract from Text: In all cases of design, we should understand that figures, the positive elements that attract and draw our attention, could not exist without a contrasting background. It is therefore clear that positive and negative are more than just opposing elements. Together they form an inseparable reality – a unity of opposites – just as the elements of form and space together form the reality of Architecture. Much like the sensation of heat can only be appreciated by first experiencing cold architectural space can only be perceived through its actual physical boundaries. Although our definition of space is a uniform field extending in the three dimensional world, our perceptual experience of space is actually of the negative which can only be understood once it becomes positive, this means the space has to become inverted. Clearly we find it much easier to interact with solid objects rather than the voids they occupy and define. Our brains are accustomed to understanding objects by physically touching them and seeing the objects outer surface, as opposed to the hidden inner surface. When a cast of a negative space is produced we are able to interact with its outer surfaces, it forces us to consider the space differently and in a more direct manner. Maybe as designers we should consider the shapes of voids, then placing containing elements after the shape is defined. As architects we claim to design spaces, but the truth is we only design the container of space. Walls, floors and ceilings. This raises the question are buildings themselves negatives of which are most important in architecture, the space we strive to create? Surely it is our ultimate goal to be able to carve and sculpt one solid object into a beautiful piece of architecture, instead of placing elements together to create a fragmented design.







After the initial schemes began to be reflected upon it became clear several issues were constantly being raised by the plans organisation. The intention of placing the prayer hall as far away from the entrance as possible seemed correct but was causing problems with how people circulated within the mosque. The question was raised that to far a distance and to many changes in direction actually ends up diluting the conceptual idea of a journey in the first place. It was also questioned whether on route to the prayer hall Muslims should past the Kibbla wall, given the walls sacred importance it was clear that the procession leading to prayer should not pass the Kibbla wall . Positioning the minaret at the transition point between sacred and secular proved to be a good decision and an element to be carried through further changes. The Carved urban space of the courtyard as the initial first step of the street also seemed to work as an idea but in the initial scheme it failed to organise people when entering the mosques walls. As a way of trying to make the court a organisational I began to research monastery and chapel’s in search of cloister examples to help. The big move therefor concerned the flipping of the plan. Effectively the prayer hall and courtyard space swapped positions, the minaret remaining the connective piece between the two. The entrance moved up along rose street and enters into a cloister that surrounds the courtyard. The plan splits into two distinct parts , the sacred and the secular. The main public cafe is situated at the termination of the cloister with views onto the courtyard. Above on 1st floor a small library/gathering space also shares views out into the court. The procession to prayer was the largest change , the prayer hall is now much closer to the actual entrance, however Muslims are still forced onto this path of thresholds and varying spaces to create this sense of arrival. Off the street and into the inside/outside space of the cloister with low ceiling, then through into the minaret with its dramatic scale, into the dark artificially light ablution hall and finally into the vast prayer hall flooded with light.


initial sketches showing the flip






Minaret Courtyard

Prayer Hall






Final Plans




Create An Urban Block

“Carved” Urban Space

The removal of the buildings currently on the site left a large corner plot in an extremely dense area of Aberdeen. In order to restore the street edges and connect the mosque to the existing fabric of the city and “urban block” is imagined on the site. The block “fills” the site creating an element that can be theoretically moulded and sculpted to define the mosque

Minaret As a Portal

Respond To Context

Typology studies show that in many successful mosques a key outside space has been involved. An urban space within the block is an appropriate architectural element to incorporate into the mosque. The density of the created block must be “carved” away to create an urban space for people to inhabit. The space will not only serve as a space for Muslims but also a space for the people of Aberdeen, encouraging a dynamic Interaction.

The “Urban Blocks” height is defined by the by a deliberate response to the surrounding context of Rose and Thistle Street. Both streets are mainly composed of two storey buildings that define the street edges, the block therefore is moulded to respond to the two storey datum line of thistle and Rose, This respectful height gives generous floor heights inside the mosque and respects the grain of the city.

Retain Symmetry


The Minaret presents both an interesting a challenging architectural problem. Its original purpose to serve as a calling tower for prayer is not suitable in Aberdeen and would cause tension. Finding a “unique” new role for the minaret became key to scheme. The need to separate sacred and secular became apparent from early studies, the minaret is therefore used as a “portal” for Muslims. Its positioning on the site indicates a significant change from the secular world behind and stepping into the sacred.

With the awkward geometries presented by the site and the overlapping mecca grid, the ability to understand key spaces in plan is important. Symmetry has long held a place in religious buildings and can be adopted in the mosque design. The urban space, Minaret and prayer hall all retain their symmetrical forms with the other functions of the building filling the awkward spaces.

Cloister After Establishing the need for the external space to become more of a organizational tool, cloisters began to represent an interesting architectural element. Throughout history the cloister has been used in many religious buildings, providing a buffer zone between inside and outside and retaining a connection with the internal space. Using a cloister became the preferred alternative to entering directly into an open courtyard, within the context of Aberdeen it seemed reasonable to use the cloister while maintaining the connection to the courtyard created. The monastery’s of Dutch architect Hans Van Der Laan in particular highlight the simple use of a cloister in a contemporary religious building as an organizational device.

Monastery Sint-Benedictusberg, Hans Van Der Laan, plan








Procession - Cloister



Space -



With the concept of an urban block being created on the site, there was a need to carve some sort of space to control the density and allow natural light into the deep plan. Following initial studies of mosque typologies is was evident the inclusion of a courtyard space would be advantageous in the mosque. It was established at an early stage the courtyard would be one of the initial spaces encountered when navigating through the building for both Muslims and non-Muslims. The size of the courtyard is determined by its relationship to the prayer hall. As one of the 3 key spaces in the design the court was always imagined as a large space of similar scale to the prayer hall. Despite the overwhelming size of some of the courtyards in early mosques is was determined not appropriate to give such a large amount of the urban block over to external space.



Ventilation -


Courtyard The inclusion of the courtyard in the design allowed for some parts of the building to be naturally ventilated. The heavily populated rooms of the Cafe and library both have windows facing directly onto the court. The cafe has sliding doors which can be opened during periods of good weather to allow air to naturally circulate. Likewise on the 1st floor the library has open able windows which can be opened to allow fresh air into the space. During colder months Trickle vents in the windows still allow fresh air to enter the spaces but with a less frequent flow.

50 mm Pre Cast Concrete cap 20 mmVapour Barrier 200 mmThermal Insulation 300mm Reinforced In Situ Concrete

300mm Reinforced In situ Concrete loadbearing wall 200mm Rigid Insulation 40mm Cavity Gap 30mm Granite cladding




1 : 20

Triple Glazed Sliding door onto courtyard


I n t er n a l



1 : 20

Lowered Ceiling carrying services around Cloister

Openable window to allow for natural Ventilation 300mm In Situ Concrete floor slab 50mm Underfloor heating in Screed







The Courtyard

Enviromental +Construction Strategy

- Minaret

Structure The Minaret is cast in situ concrete with a timber cladding formwork used on this inside face, and clad in a smooth granite on the outside. The use of timber batons for the formwork help emphasise the height of the space eluding a over scaled exaggerated space. The process of pouring the concrete will require cranes on site and jumping shuttering to complete. The formwork allows for small 100x100 recesses at the top of each pour. Within these small openings light fittings are fixed to help give the minaret a glow internally and externally at night. Environmental Small louvers at the top of the glazing allow for air to naturally ventilate out the top due to the stack affect. Under floor heating is provided but is unlikely to be used often as the space is more of a transition area than a place where people linger. Other rooms surrounding the Minaret do not required the exposed concrete finish. These rooms are therefore covered with white plaster board as a finish. Dropped ceilings in these rooms connecting back to the cloister carry services to and from the plant room. 49



Section 1:20 - Minaret Dropped Ceiling to allow Sevices to run to and from plant room

300mm In-situ Concrete with Timber baton Finish

Double glazed Window Facing inside Minaret

Rigid sound insulation With underfloor heating in Screed



Buildup Section 1:20 - Minaret

Downlight inside concrete recess to provide subtle lighting

In situ Concrete Foundation with 200mm Rigid Insulation , vapour barrier and under floor heating in screed finish









From the outset of the project and discovering more about the Religion of Islam and there needs, the prayer hall was always imagined as a “ blank canvas” for Muslims. The idea being that within the space there were no other distractions, a space for to invite the contemplation of the divine. While remaining simple natural light would play a considerable important role in how the space felt. The intention was to create “carved” corners out of the 4 corners of the prayer hall, these corners would let light wash the walls of the prayer hall brining peace and serenity.

Louis Kahn , First Unitarian Church of Rochester

Eduardo Chillida , Tindaya Mountain

Kahn’s implementation of simple materials that do not require any extra detailing after their construction added to the atmosphere and character of the spaces ; he believe in the integrity of each material so much so that the cast-in place concrete would take on the formal qualities of the wood planks. The unfinished aesthetic seems to dematerialize the qualities of each space giving the spaces a new aesthetic found among the details and the light. In the sanctuary, the rough finish of the cast-in place concrete and the brick interior appear to wash away in the light, giving the light deconstructive properties, all the while giving the material luminous qualities that engulf and transform the space.

Sun-light will slowly drift over the seamless stone walls, encompassing visitors in a silent shine to humanity. This cavernous space was the vision of Basque artist Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002). The actualization of this monumental work of art has been fraught with environmental, historical preservation and construction concerns. Today things are back on track and the Chilida Tindaya cavern is posed to be one of the most impressive achievements of contemporary art.




- Prayer


To create the desired serenity in mind a series of material studies were carried out. Several materials were tested including stone, brick, wood and concrete. without doubt the concrete study gave the hall the most powerful serene Aesthetic. Concrete was chosen as the overall material for the prayer hall also helping it to tie back into the monolithic concept.


Enviromental +Construction Strategy

- Prayer


Structure The construction of the prayer hall along with the rest of the building is In-Situ concrete. The choice of material was relatively simple when trying to incorporate the idea of a monolith into the structure. The prayer hall would be cast in small 1200x2400 standard plywood panel shuttering, The desired outcome of the concrete would be perfectly smooth so the joints would be barely noticeable. This use of material for construction relates back to the blurred boundaries discussed by Jonathan Woolf in the text “ the Thickness of Paint� Environmental The prayer hall will hold the most people in any space at one given time within the mosque. During a Friday prayer it is able to hold up to 200 people. In order for this space to be comfortably ventilated A mechanical heat recovery unit is held within a dropped ceiling in the roof. Under floor heating provides heat that rises and is exchanged once it reaches the top. The thermal mass of the concrete used also helps the condition of the space. The concrete stores heat during the day therefore cooling the spaces and then releases heat at night to maintain a constant temperature. 55



- Prayer


Islamic Wind towers were used as a precedent when considering the ventilation of the prayer hall. The 4 raised corners of the prayer hall created a perfect opportunity to use the power of the wind tower and recreate it within the Prayer Hall. Despite the clear potential in this idea I was unable to implement into the design of the mosque. In hindsight if I was given the chance to design this again I would consider studying vernacular types of ventilation at an earlier stage of the design process. The system remains simple and highly affective The cooling process is fairly elaborate but, very simply put, the top half of the tower acts as a funnel that accelerates the air into the room below. The inward flow of air is then matched by an up draught in the opposite side of the wind tower. As the temperature rises through the day, the hot air rises and a change in pressure then draws the breeze down through the tower, setting off a flow of ventilation.

Typical Wind Tower

Conceptual Sketches of Windtower Idea


Floor Build Up



- Prayer



Roof Detail


- Prayer


200mm Reinforced In Situ Concrete 20mm Vapour Barrier 150mm Thermal insulation 40 mm Cavity Gap with Timer battons 20 mm Weatherproof Bitumen Cover Steel flashing at edge

Mechanical Heat rrecovery Unit In dropped Ceiling





Street -



With the surrounding areas being mainly commercial buildings and residential flats it was key to tr and make the mosque settles within the context of the street. Attempting to recreate a pattern of shop windows on ground level similar to the ones of commercial steps became the first step, Without being windows these recesses are filled with the same granite cladding that covers the rest of the building. Above ground level is where the openings become more free and elude to special things happening behind them.The entrance is recessed in to give prominence agaisnt the rest of the street edge . With the large window opening behind the multipurpose hall and the long thin window revealing the classrooms. The granite finish represents an attempt to pay homage to Aberdeen’s famous Granite industry, although the cost demands to clad a building in such a material it was an important part of the monolithic style that was to be achieved.




Fire There are 3 main protected stairwells within the mosque, one of which serves also as the main public stair. A small services corridor was implemented at the SW corner of the site , this is primarily used as a short escape route from the prayer hall. As this is likely to hold most people at any given time it was important the prayer hall had a fire escape close by. Another fire stair is accessed in the middle of Rose Street and is accessed from 1st floor. The main public stair doubles up as a fire escape, although not leading directly onto an escape route, it can be used to access the courtyard and then towards another fire escape. Fire proof glass is used throughout the courtyard walls making it a fire safe compartment that people can use in case of emergency. DDA The building is accessed of one single point of Rose Street. The main lift is directly ahead of the main entrance making access and visibility easy. A second lift is incorporated in the mosque side of the building so Disabled woman can also experience the minaret before going to prayer.






Architecture,Design + Myself

Looking back on a year of work is always an interesting thing to do. In all honesty it’s so much easier to make decisions when you are completely removed from the design process. Looking from the outside at my design there are problems and issues that I was never able to resolve. Admitting that I couldn’t resolve them is only possible one the whole process is finished. I am in many ways disappointed in what I have ended up with, I have gave the year everything I have and to end up with something that isn’t what I imagined is demoralising. Starting the year after a relatively successful 3rd year I was so eager to achieve good things this year, for the first 2 years of Architecture I did not apply myself correctly, Personal issues got in the way of my education and since the start of 3rd year I have really applied myself in all ways to try and learn more about Architecture. In many ways this has been my most successful year in the course. I was chosen for the super crit in February, I have learned about a whole new culture in Islam, Discovered what it takes to create a sacred space and in general really pushed myself to be the best I can be. Despite this success, I am more disillusioned with Architecture than I ever have been before. I find the starting point of projects absolutely fascinating. What I love about Architecture is the journey, the transformation of something in your mind into an idea or thought is so exhilarating. The more you question every move and decision you make, you get so far from that initial spark of creativity that your now on shaky ground. You have to go back to the purity of picking up a pencil, striking it across a sketchbook and not knowing what you are doing till after your hand stops moving. That moving at the speed of thought is the immediacy I want in Architecture. But realistically this is never going to happen, Once construction, services etc get involved it is so hard to maintain that spark as it fades into nothingness. This being said it may well be my lack of Architectural ability that means I cannot carry an idea from start to finish. If that is the case I accept that but I do not belong in the Architectural profession. I look forward to next year, I do though hope to explore something maybe controversial in terms of Architecture. Over the past years I have learnt so many negative things about Architecture which people choose not to expose or discuss. I hope the next year helps me discover what I really want to do, I want to use 5th year as a tool to guide me into a adult life, which I currently don’t see being in Architecture. Despite my uncertainty with Architecture I know I have given my all to this year and truly enjoyed the process and what it has taught me both about architecture and myself.





Alexander, C. (1978) A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. Alexander, C. (1980) The Timeless Way of Building Alexander, C. (2004) The Phenomenon of Life: The Nature of Order, Book 1 Serageldin, I. (1995) The Architecture of the Contemporary Mosque: New Architectures Jackson, P. (2007) Windtower: Houses of the Bastaki Hold, R. (1997) The Mosque and the Modern World: Architects, Patrons and Designs Since the 1950s Hans Van Der Laan, D. (2011) Dom Hans Van Der Laan Caruso, A. (2009) The Feeling of Things Tanizaki, J. (2001) In Praise Of Shadows Zumthor, P. (2006) Atmospheres: Architectural Environments Kahn, L. (2008) Between Silence and the Light: Spirit in the Architecture of Louis I. Kahn



Contents Berlin Project Design Research Unit Summer Precedent Study

Between Thinking + Making 1

Between Thinking + Making 2

Between Thinking + Making 3








Design One




Unit To








Summer Precedent




Thinking +







Thinking +







Thinking +





Ben Chadwick IDR  
Ben Chadwick IDR