Sydney Architecture Festival unveils the city’s newest mosque

Linda Morris

AUGUST 28 2017

SAF-9

Approached by Punchbowl’s Sunni community a decade ago to design a place of worship, architect Angelo Candalepas thought, “how strange, a mosque.”

Mr Candalepas is of the Greek Orthodox faith and his whole family are involved in church activities. “I found it complicated and difficult to imagine myself working on a mosque to be honest.”

In the same week he received requests to design a new Antiochian church, an augmentation to the Great Synagogue, a Protestant church in Sutherland and a respite centre for the Greek Orthodox Church.

The award-winning architect accepted all projects. “Every one of them has to have space which is spiritual and non fashionable … they aren’t interested in shape but in things that should last.”

The mosque posed a unique challenge – to respect the sacred traditions of the Islamic faith as described by the qiblah wall facing Mecca and the minbar or pulpit, rising high to address worshippers and observe the planning guidelines and height restrictions of the red brick and tile suburb.

The result is one in which the traditional wedding cake mosque with its high minarets and dome sitting on top of a cube has been reinvented.

Sydney’s newest and smallest mosque features hundreds of raw concrete half domes, each of which will have pinholes of light inscribed with the 99 different names for God.

“There is going to be a series of intense lights through the little skylights that exist in every single one of these half domes and there will be 102 stars,” Mr Candalepas said. “It will be beautiful, don’t you think?”

The mosque, still with scaffolding, will be unveiled for the four-day Sydney Architecture Festival, founded 11 years ago to bring discussion around architecture and design out of boardrooms and studios and into the community.

At a free public open day event called Meet the Aussie Mosque, Sydney will be introduced to the architectural and culturally significant features of the $12 million mosque.

Festival director Tim Horton said the mosque’s design represented the template for a new form of mosque with its own unique Australian identity, and the open day was a chance to bridge cultural differences.

“This is a mosque but not as we know it,” Mr Horton said. “Driving past it would turn anyone’s head. It’s even more intriguing once you know its purpose and it’s even more thrilling once you step inside and see a very ancient tradition of the dome and the arch used in a completely new way by Angelo and this will be unfinished, this is a contemporary concrete building.

“We are not saying that architecture can solve the world’s problem by itself but we are saying sometimes we can bridge our differences at the end of the day by breaking bread, and loving a good building.”

The festival, with its program of talks, exhibitions, panel discussions and open day events running from September 29 to October 2, is focused on western Sydney. Broad themes revolve around the built environment representing the city’s past, present and future.

The mosque’s minaret has been adapted so that worshippers imagine the importance of the call to prayer “without having a pole upon which they climb because today we have the ability to create an augmentation of voice without necessarily screaming it from a post,” Mr Candalepas said.

The women’s gallery, he said, has been deliberately placed at the centre of the dome “elevated as it were in what I would consider a more powerful space than men underneath them”.

The mosque is inspired by brutalist​ architecture and the festival is offering tours of Sydney’s classic brutalist architecture buildings.

“Cities like London, Berlin and Paris are all rebirthing their great brutalist buildings and finding that there is an awful lot to love,” Mr Horton said. “They are more richly textured and crafted than we think but you have to get up close to these brutes to understand their soft side.

“They are textured, they often have the thumb print of their maker, you’ve got rough sawn timber boards that have often been the result of formwork.

“You’ve got generous spaces because this is the time when actually social gatherings and communities were really important. Sydney has loved its various eras – convict, Victorian, Georgian – and moving into the 21st century we can’t forget the 20th century is a layer that says something about ourselves.”

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/sydney-architecture-festival-unveils-the-citys-newest-mosque-20170817-gxyyu6.html

FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS 

Meet the Aussie Mosque: Join the community of Sydney’s newest mosque and hear speakers Dr Zachariah Matthews, vice president of the Australian Islamic Mission, Anjali Roberts, City of Parramatta and architect Angelo Candalepas.

Video – Meet the Aussie Mosque