Islamic Religious and Cultural Centre, Ljubljana, SI
The ‘specificity’ of the new location for the Islamic Religious and Cultural Centre is precisely its complete lack of ‘specificity’—an area that is near the city centre, but abandoned and forgotten, in a fragile, undeveloped state, with an uncertain urban future. Much like its historical predecessors—a nearby example being the case of Sarajevo mosques during the 19th century, where mosque complexes were built by rich donors—were the starting points, the ‘seeds’ for the development of the new parts of the city, the new complex becomes such for this part of Ljubljana. The programme of the centre consists of the building of a religious school, a cultural and office facility, an apartment building for the employees of the community, a restaurant, and the mosque—the first one to be built in Slovenia—all of these functions supported by parking places in the basement. The new buildings of the centre are positioned as separate entities, autonomous buildings surrounding the central square area with a mosque in its centre. They are simple volumes, always oriented towards the ‘outside’ world with their respective programmes, simultaneously surrounding the mosque building and allowing views towards it from all sides, through the gaps in-between them. The mosque, sitting on and opened fully towards the square to allow for the extension of the prayer space to the outside during large gatherings of congregation, is the central element of the new complex. Rather than following obvious historical precedents, as well as recent iconographically obvious examples, it is conceived as a steel structure – a 32/32/24 metre box constructed of a 1-metre (45cm) deep and only 2 (8cm) centimetre thick steel latticework, filled with white concrete on the lower part, and transparent glass on the upper part, allowing for the sun to flood the interior space. The cupola—the central element of the mosque—rather than just topping the space, hangs suspended within its interior. As a representation of the sky in historical examples – it is made of transparent blue textile, the flimsiest and most fragile of materials, the material which in Islam has a long and rich history—starting from the Kiswah of Kaaba to the portable tent-mosques of Iran.