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Form follows politics Abstract

Theoretically, architecture is about creating spaces and forms that follow function, but does that apply in real life? In my excursion I would like to investigate the main factors that influence architecture in reality; Politics, money and culture. This topic is a very interesting and controversial one, yet people notice and mention but never dare to get into the details of it. It will show the conflict in cultures and how it is engaged with the process of designing buildings and their functions. My strategy to present this issue is to document and visit examples of buildings that would help in supporting my statement, with the focus on the main inspiration of this excursion; Yenidze “the tobacco mosque” in addition to visiting real mosques in Dresden. Yenidze is the name of a former cigarette factory building in Dresden, Germany. It was built in the beginning of the 2th century with the form of a mosque. It has been readapted and renovated, and currently used as office building and restaurant. Night events take place underneath the dome of the “mosque”. Those events mainly revolve around telling tales with orient dancing. On the other hand, the activities that should be performed there, such as praying, are held in storage-like buildings named as mosques even though it lacks the elements of one.

Form Follows Politics The FFF is the methodology that is taught in most of architecture schools whether it is “ Form Follows Function” , which is the most common one through history of Architecture, or “ Function Follows Form”, the a reverse process of design is occurred. With the FFF the semiotic and the semantic are always connected to each other, semantic is the symbol itself and the semantic is its meaning. But what if both semiotic and semantic are lost? What are the factors that really affect them and make neither form nor function follow each other? Those question are going to be answered in this piece of paper which is designated to investigate the main factors that influence architecture in reality; politics, money and culture. The conflicts in cultures are also going to be examined to relate it to those factors and how it is engaged with the process of designing buildings and their functions. To make my Ideas more convincing, I have decided to study two iconic buildings in the city Dresden in Germany, where each one of them has a big statement to say to the visitors, those are: Yenidze “the tobacco Mosque” with its mosque like design, and the other building is the Jewish synagogue with its sophisticated structure. In addition to that, Muslims religious centers, that they call Masjid, are going to be studied to be aware of the regulations that were put by the German government compared to the freedom the Jewish have. Yenidze is the name of a former cigarette factory building in st Dresden which was built in the the beginning of the 21 century with the form of a mosque. Hugo Zeitz the founder of the tobacco mosque, as used to be referred to by people, wanted to vuild a factory in the style of a mosque, even if it would contradict with the different style in Dresden; the baroque style of the cities of Saxon. The name of the factory came from the most important tobacco growing area in Turkey; Yenidze. Yenidze- Dresden

The construction started in 1907 and finished in 1909, and even though it was Germany’s first reinforced concrete skeleton building, but it was merely related to the modernity in architecture that followed the industrial revolution of that era. It was almost of an Islamic architecture; glass dome, 600 differently designed windows, chimney and ventilation shafts in the form of minarets, the big court around the building. And even though in the west façade there were elements in art nouveau style, the whole building stood and still standing as pure replica of Islamic architecture.

Glass dome

Variation in windows


Façade details

When entering the building, one can only related to the design of the exterior of the building through the red and grey granite decorating the foyer, other than that the interior of the building is of a modern western architecture and does not reflect the exterior of Yenidze. The glass dome, with the form of a four centered arch and the 20 height, was at the beginning a colorfully corresponds harmonically with the oriental architecture of the building. “Salem Aleikum” was the salutation line in fluorescent letters from the roof of the “mosque” before the dome got destroyed during the war in 1945. Then it was reconstructed and verified in brown-green glass in 1986. The “tobacco mosque” is currently used as office building of a private sector company. The dome is used as restaurant and the upper part of the dome is used for Oriental night activities, where oriental dancers tell the story of the one thousand and one night tales through their dancing. It is very shocking to see such a building with its all oriental ornamentation and design is used for such acts and where a lot of nudity abstract statues are distributed around the site declaring that this territory has no sense of spirituality and no religious activities can be held there.

The nightclub billboard

Nudity statue


Interior of the building


The huge questions this building arose made me investigate the condition of Islamic centers in Dresden, in addition to other religious buildings for other religions other than Christianity. This led me to visit Marwa Al-Sharbini Islamic center and the Jewish synagogue. A group of Islamic and Arab leaders, as well as group from Egyptian community in Germany have asked the German government to grant them a license to build a mosque in Dresden in honor of the Egyptian woman killed in Dresden courtroom, who was described as the” martyr of veil”; the 3 months pregnant woman was killed by a German-Russian man in the courtroom. The German government agreed to build the mosque that would be named after her; Marwa AlSharbini. The government put a plan of building the mosque along with an attached center for childcare, a Quran school and a medical center. None of them was built by the government and the donation for construction of the mosque came from Muslim and Arab communities in Dresden.

Marwa Sharbini Islamic Center

Even though the designated site for the mosque had a space of 1200 sqm, the built up area was only 180sqm. It has two floors; a basement and the ground floor. When I first entered the mosque, it wasn’t that sacred place; a storage like building with a very low budget to keep the mosque clean and maintained. The mosque was managed and still funded by Muslims who tries to find some time to serve the needs of the mosque. The first thing I noticed there was the absence of a minaret and when I asked what the reason was behind that, the Imam answered that they were not allowed to build a minaret as the city regulations prevented them from doing that. The building cannot be described as architecture; it is merely doing its designated function, other than that it can never be labeled as a mosque as it lacks its basic elements; a defined court for people to congregate especially in Friday, minaret for the Imam to announce prayer time, Mihrab (it was drawn on the walls). One of the noticeable things is the ratio between how many Prayers this building serves and the population of registered Muslims in Dresden, one can notice the unfairness of service distribution; this building can approximately serve 400 prayer where else the population is 2000 Muslims.

The center in Ramadan

Praying Hall

Corridor to Women’s room

Ablution room

I had to explore other buildings to know whether those regulations were for all other religions in Dresden or only set Against Islam. When I visited the Jewish Synagogue, I had a complete different impression about it; it was a highly advanced and well-designed building, where its architecture was so unique it became an iconic building in Dresden. In 1997, an international architectural competition was made to design a new synagogue in Dresden after the destruction of the old one that was designed by Gottfried Semper in 1833. In 2001, the new synagogue replaced the remains of the old one. It was designed by Wandel, Hoefer, Lorch and Hirsch from Saarbrucken; a well-known architecture company in Germany. Even the structure of the building is sophisticated yet simple, reflecting the importance of this building in the city; the20x20 meter square tilt around itself many times creating the pleasure to eye form; The 34 layers of molded brick masonry of the 24 meter high temple rotate spirally upward until they reach the exact alignment to the east. This effect was enough for the synagogue to be powerful and give an unshakable impression; it required no additional jewelry or other characters. The aggressive exterior smoothness of the façade corresponds entirely to today’s architectural spirit of time, and it is less disturbing since the communication is directed inwards.

The synagogue

Through this study, one can notice the unfairness of politics in determining the regulations set for different groups of societies; the Jewish community population in Dresden is only 700 Jewish where else the Muslim one is over 2000, at least the registered ones. It is only about who got the power and money to influence politics and gain the societies sympathy. 700 Jewish who only need a building for prayer and worshiping one day a week would not need a 2000 sqm to serve their needs that is also funded by the government , while the Muslims, whose praying is a daily life ritual, are limited in a storage like buildings financed by the users themselves. This journey I made, highlighted the actual factors that affect architecture; money, relationships, politics and society. If there is money, the power is in the hand to even build a very oriental building in a hostile environment. If there are relationships, it becomes easy to manipulate those who are in charge. And of course the society awareness about any cause would affect their acceptance to whatever related to it. Here many questions arise; wouldn’t it be better if we were exposed to this during our academic life instead of facing the harsh reality unprepared? Instead of just studying the climatic and physical factors that influences any site and project, wouldn’t it be better to study the previously mentioned factors in addition to those? Perhaps in the future this could be taken into consideration that it would benefit and prepare the architects-to be.

Form follows politics