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Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

United Kingdom Architecture News - Nov 16, 2021 - 14:51   1020 views

Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

London and Mexico-based architecture firm Aidia Studio has proposed a mosque made of a fractal system of pointed-arch vaults in Preston in England. 

Named New Preston Mosque, the 1,800-square-metre mosque complex is proposed at the highest point of the site on the outskirts of Preston. The design is aimed to be a landmark and distinctive element for Preston with its narrow, cascading pointed-arch volumes. 

With this project, the studio aims to contribute to a new age of Islamic architecture in the UK, emphasizing a new age of inclusiveness, tolerance, and dignity.

Aidia Studio explains that "we truly believe that there is no better vehicle to drive that effort of dignification and acceptance than contemporary architecture with its ability to materializing ideals into innovative physical spaces."

Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

Although the mosque seems to be divided into multiple volumetric arrangements, the interior of the mosque is designed as flexible as possible to allow different programmatic functions.

Inspired by a module of pointed-arch vault, which is the quintessential archetype of Islamic Architecture, the architects play, stretch and scale up them with the different modules of pointed-arch vaults that create different functions of the program. The programmatic functions include minaret, ablution rooms, male and female accesses, library and a prayer hall.

"Apart from cultivating the symbolic gesture of the ascendance, we are able to define a journey which starts in the landscape, continues through the main access, cloak room and ablution and culminates in the prayer room," the studio adds. 

"It seems appropriate that this ceremonial hall, be the most guarded space of the complex, at the highest point on the site and shielded away from the cars."

Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

To orient the mosque towards Mecca, the team extends the main axis across the site by dividing into a grid where all elements, architectural, structural and landscape are aligned in a holistic manner. 

As the studio emphasizes, this 4.8m grid creates a suitable framework for laying out the car parking and the pillars supporting the mosque’s vaults. 

The studio adds that "Our architectural journey rescues the quintessential archetype of Islamic Architecture, the pointed arch. This centuries-old building feature transcended its origins in Persia and India and migrated into Europe where it was quickly embraced across cultures during the gothic period."

Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

According to the architects, the archetype of pointed arch is structurally much more efficient than the rounded arch, and when turned into a vault it is able to span large distances clearing the floorplan from columns and other heavy load bearing elements.

For this reason, the studio has devised a vault system composed of fractals which can be subdivided and adapted to specific programmatic requirements.

The studio proposes to build these vaults out of reinforced ground natural stone or cast in glass fibre reinforced concrete (GRC). By being a modular system, they would be able to be manufactured in series locally or regionally.

Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

Parking is designed as part of landscape

One of the biggest challenges was to integrate a car parking into design which doesn’t resemble one, according to the architects. 

In this regard, the architects' approach aims to blur the boundary between parking and landscaping, and they create a playful array of shifting slates, plates, and benches. 

"We draw our inspiration from the Islamic gardens which are characterised by an intricate play of geometric patterns on multiple levels targeting the human senses through water features, fields of flowers, singing birds and shading elements," the studio continues. 

"Along the edge of the site, a cascading array of planters blend with the surroundings."

Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

Building Flow, An Intuitive Journey

The architects state that "one of the most fascinating aspects of Mosque design, is the materialization of a ritual into a significant ceremonial experience." 

To achieve this, "they have aimed to provide an effortless intuitive, sequential flow from the time the user enters the building, checks-in their coat and umbrella, removes their shoes, proceeds to cleansing to finally entering the prayer hall."

The goal of the project is to provide a linear flow where paths of clean and dirty don’t overlap.

Ablution Rooms, Honouring the Ritual

In designing the ablution, the studio have aimed to go beyond the pragmatism of the washing requirement by rescuing the beauty and ritualistic significance of the cleansing. 

To celebrate a ritual and a poetic moment, in this space, the sound of running water from a centralized fountain fills the space along with the effect of sun rays piercing from the skylight, as water washes your body, light purifies your soul. 

Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

Mashrabiyas, breaking the light

To materialize the outer skin of the mosque, the font screens, made of cast bronze, gives a strong entity to the building. The screens are found in all Islamic architectural archetypes, while the mashrabiya screens filter the light and set the stage for a dimmed ceremonial atmosphere. 

"We have designed a pattern which reinforces the fractal linearity of the overall scheme," the studio adds. 

"The mashrabiya cassettes, intended to be cast bronze, close the vaults along the NW-SE axis creating a kinetic play of lights and shadows across all three levels of the mosque." 

Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

Minaret will be a beacon for Preston

Apart from diffusing the call to prayer, the minaret is intended to be used as an observation point of Preston. Reaching at 32-metre height, the minaret will be visible from the near periphery and all major approaching roads. "The aim is to make it a distinctive element and a landmark for Preston," according to the team. 

"With this in mind we believe that the new mosque in Preston will play a much bigger role than solely a place of worship, it has the potential of forging the collective links that help an entire community to lift itself from poverty and claim their place in a forward looking, multicultural British society," the team adds.

Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

Site plan

Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

Ground floor plan

Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

First floor plan

Aidia Studio proposes a mosque made of pointed-arch vaults in Preston

Second floor plan

The New Peston Mosque was proposed as part of RIBA's international competition.

Aidia Studio was founded by Rolando Rodriguez-Leal and Natalia Wrzask in 2018. The studio won the WA Award in the 35th Cycle with The Rub' Al Khali Oculus project.  

Project facts

Area: 1800 sqm

Levels: Three Levels 

Minaret Height: 32m

Building Materials: Natural Stone Cladding, Casted Bronze Mashrabiyas, Granite Stone Tiles


Project Team 

Lead Architects: Rolando Rodriguez-Leal, Natalia Wrzask 

Project Team: Emilio Vásquez Hoppenstedt, Rodrigo Wulf Sánchez

All images © Aidia Studio 

> via Aidia Studio