The Space Mosque: The Future of Religious Architecture

Religious architecture is often seen in the UK as something of a bygone era, however this is simply not the case in other areas of the world…

When you think of Istanbul you think of towering masterpieces of Ottoman Architecture from ages past. Giant baroque buildings like the Blue Mosque and the magnificent Byzantine former Church Ia Sofia. Many of Istanbul’s newer mosques seem like cheap copies of the Blue Mosque. It very much looks like a copy/paste situation a lot of the time.

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However not the Marmara Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Cami (In English: Marmara University Faculty of Theology Mosque), or as I have dubbed it: the Space Mosque

I remember the curiosity surrounding this strange new mosque as it was being built. I 20161228_152041remember going past on a bus and someone saying “Saruman gibi”- “it looks like something of Saruman’s”. Of course referring to the minarets that look more like the spires of Isengard from Lord of the Rings! From the outside it at first seems utterly bizarre, looking more like it would belong in a star trek film than in a modern Muslim city. It might even look a little soviet!

The spiraling dome seems extremely odd. It hardly even looks like one! It’s all so geometric! It looks 20161228_152240more like a weird ice cream cone than a mosque. The minarets really do look like they should sending transmissions to distant alien civilisations. There is nonetheless something radical about the prominent use of triangular shapes as opposed to the very rounded forms seen in most other Turkish mosques. Almost organic Ottoman cathedrals give way to a new interpretation of mosque design.

It’s pure white architecture seems relatively minimalist compared to the average local Cami. However on closer inspection there is much continuity with Islamic tradition. The pattern of the mesh over the windows is reminiscent of the Ottoman love of foliage in architectural form. The green streak across the dome pays homage to the tradition of green as the colour of paradise in Islam. A mosque that is white all over, but the only other colour in it’s pallette is full of meaning…

However, as soon as you step inside, the atmosphere changes. Gone is the noise of the teeming traffic and building projects. Gone is the biting cold of an Istanbul winter.

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It’s like stepping into a hot spring. The air is warm and silent. Only the sound of a small fountain in the centre of the prayer hall and the whispering of prayers to the Lord can be heard. Beautiful calligraphy lines the walls. White and gold become almost one as you stare around the beauty of the prayer hall. The Mihrab (the archway at the front of the prayer hall that points towards Mecca) is delicately and intricately beautiful. The soft glow of the lights behind the gold seems to fill you with a knowledge of God’s tenderness. Many mosques are a filled with a flurry of colour, however this pallete just glows with warmth.

The inside of the mosque seems at first to be far more traditional that outside. However the unique design is evident in the sheer expanse of the prayer hall and it’s geometric organisation. The design of the fountain and calligraphy lining the walls can be found in many other mosques

But then you look up…

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I don’t know why people don’t compare mosques to cathedrals more because this is awe inspiring. You can finally see why it is so oddly shaped on the outside. Light streams in through the gorgeous skylight and the green windows seem like giant emeralds pointed towards heaven. The spiraling geometric shapes give the illusion of roundess and organicness. The eye cannot help but marvel at it.

Religious architecture in Turkey is dynamic and fresh, far from the tired old churches that dot the UK. If anything this mosque teaches us that religion and regression do not go hand in hand. Creativity and innovation are charged by ideas and Islam is no different from the rest in the sheer creativity of it’s adherents.

If you are reading from Turkey, I want to see more of this innovation. If you are in Britain, think what we could do to revamp our own tired old religious buildings if we put our mind to it…

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2 thoughts on “The Space Mosque: The Future of Religious Architecture

  1. I love your blogs so much! They’re always so interesting – and this one was amazing too. Unfortunately I’m not in Turkey to see this masterpiece but whenever I get to go it’s another place to check out!

    Like

    1. Hi Revels1! Thanks very much, I’m glad to hear you like them. Really appreciate the complements :)) yes you should definitely visit it when you get a chance. Its something a little different from the normal tourist spots.

      Liked by 1 person

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