2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Bait Ur Rouf Mosque

Marina Tabassum Architects
4. October 2016
The Mosque is a perfect square that sits on a high plinth, which prevents floodwater from entering the structure, allows people to sit and talk, and creates a separation between the sacred site and the busy street. (Photo: Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Rajesh Vora)

A refuge for spirituality in urban Dhaka, selected as a 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture recipient for its beautiful use of natural light.

An adherence to the essential – both in the definition of the space and the means of construction – was crucial in formulating the design of Bait ur Rouf Mosque. With land donated by her grandmother and modest funds raised by the local community, the architect has created an elemental place for meditation and prayer. 

Exterior view of corner Lightcourt and the vertival linear gap that indicates the qibla direction (Photo: Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Rajesh Vora)

The irregularly shaped site is covered by a high plinth, which not only protects against flooding but provides a gathering place set apart from the crowded street below. On top of the plinth sits the mosque, a perfect square, 23m x 23m and 7.6m high. Within this square is a cylinder, displaced to the northwest corner of the perimeter wall to create additional depth for the colonnade and the ablution area on the south- and east-facing sides respectively. And within this cylinder is in turn a smaller square, 16.75m x 16.75m and 10.6m high that is, 3m taller than the perimeter wall. Rotated within the cylinder to orientate itself with the qibla, this pavilion contains the prayer hall, which is separated from the rest of the building by open-to-sky lightwells.

The riwaq, or colonnade use the additional depth allocated by the cylinder off-centred on the south facing side. (Photo: Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Rajesh Vora)

There are two structural systems in place – the load-bearing brick walls that define the outer perimeter and the smaller spaces, and the reinforced-concrete frame that spans the column-free prayer hall. The brick walls exploit the depth between the outer square and the inner cylinder, allowing for buttressing in the interstitial space. This in turn makes it possible for panels between the load-bearing structure to have a jali of brick, leaving out alternate bricks and rotating them. In the prayer hall itself a simple vertical gap in the brick denotes the direction of the qibla, but the recess is splayed so that worshippers are not distracted by sight lines onto the busy street. What they see instead is sunlight bouncing off the wall behind. Awash with light, open to the elements, the mosque ‘breathes’.

The quality of space and architecture in this project proves that with the use of local materials and dedicated craftsmen, and an attempt towards spirituality through light can span the distance between here and infinity, between today and eternity. (Photo: Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Rajesh Vora)
The monsoon rain may pose a problem as the openings for the hot air to escape also allow in rain. However, it is important to keep cross-ventilation even when it is raining, and the rain seems to have good drainage in the spaces where it enters. (Photo: Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Rajesh Vora)
Column free prayer hall is raised on eight peripheral columns, in addition to four light courts, random circular roof openings allows daylight into the prayer hall creating an ornate pattern on the floor enhancing spirituality through light. (Photo: Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Rajesh Vora)
Qibla direction is marked by a slit of light penetrating the cylendrical brick wall which forms a light court with the facing flat wall. (Photo: Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Rajesh Vora)
Interior view showing the minimum materials used, exposed concrete and bricks, where light and ventilation are naturally provided by the simple vocabulary of Jali bricks architecture. (Photo: Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Rajesh Vora)
The prayer hall is a carefully scaled and proportioned volume that is contemplative in nature, is evenly lit to enhance the feeling of all as equal. (Photo: Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Rajesh Vora)
Floor Plan

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