Cambridge Central Mosque shortlisted for UK’s most prestigious architecture award

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LONDON – The Cambridge Central Mosque has been shortlisted for the 2021 RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Stirling Prize for its magnificent structure.

The final announcement of the winner structure will be made on October 14. The Prize is given to the architect of the building thought to be the most significant of the year for the evolution of architecture and the built environment.

The five other buildings nominated for the award include Tintagel Castle footbridge; Windermere Jetty Museum; Kingston University London Town House; Key Worker Housing, Eddington, Cambridge and 15 Clerkenwell Close.

The jury, which comprises experts, will visit all the six buildings before making the final announcement.

RIBA Chair of Award Group Jo Bacon said: “This year, the Stirling Prize shortlist represents the value and diversity of architectural invention. Our members are exploring structural and environmental challenges to deliver civic places of value to our society.

“Each one of these projects has delivered best in class environmental standards while creating extraordinary architectural solutions appropriate to their context.

“Our jury members recognised that these projects had a vision that was reflected in all aspects of the design. They demonstrate architectural and conceptual ambition while offering delight to both the owners and their visitors.”

About Cambridge Central Mosque, RIBA comments that “the urban intervention of inserting a mosque capable of welcoming 1,000 worshipers within a low rise, residential neighbourhood, without dominating it, is masterful.

“Its presence is clear but modest, considering the size of the mosque relative to the two storey terrace houses around it. This is achieved by setting it back from the street, progressing through the Islamic garden, then gradually increasing in scale to the front portico, atrium with cafe to one side and study centre to the other, through to central ablution areas. The building then rises at the rear to the largest mass of the prayer hall, which shifts in geometry to face Mecca.”

The mosque has been designed by Marks Barfield Architects. “We were inspired both by Islamic and English religious architectural traditions. Above all, we sort to develop the idea of a British Mosque for the 21st century,” they say.

The defining feature of Cambridge Central Mosque is its timber structure.

The defining internal characteristic of the mosque is the timber ‘trees’ which form the structural support for the roof and the roof lights. The geometry of the trees was developed through work with geometric artist Keith Critchlow, creating the underlying geometry of the mosque. It combines an Islamic ‘the Breath of the Compassionate’ pattern into a structural grid that supports the roof and is then brought to a point at the columns. It is a simple device that combines the structural logic of supporting a large span with few columns and a celebration of the structural material and its decorative possibilities, bringing to mind both Fosters’ Stansted Airport, and King’s College Chapel.

The external brick tiles that clad the CLT structure are from traditional Cambridge Gault and are red brick colours. The protruding headers form a pattern of Arabic Kufic calligraphy that reads “say he is God (the) one”.

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