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Australia's 99-domed mosque
(01/Jan/2018)
A new 99-domed mosque in Australia is attracting attention for its bold, brutalist design.
Scheduled to open in time for Ramadan this May, the mosque has been designed to feel welcoming to the whole community, regardless of religion.

Reimagining mosque design
 
Candalepas' eye-catching concrete design also challenges preconceptions about how a mosque should look, according to Horton.
"The outside has been totally reimagined," he said. "Gone is the central dome with four minarets planted like garden stakes at the corners. Candalepas' mosque strings (together) smaller spaces, like washrooms, along the boundary while scooping light in as you would see in a high-end art gallery."
 
Commissioning a contemporary design (and a high-profile architect) was a response to the reported difficulty of obtaining planning permission for new mosques, according to the vice president of Punchbowl's Australian Islamic Mission, Zachariah Matthews.
 
An act of faith
 
Finding a religious architect was another key priority for Punchbowl's Muslim community, according to Horton.
 
"It gave them confidence that the foundations of their faith would be incorporated into a building that may not appear ... to be a traditional mosque, but would retain all of the meaning that is so much a part of sacred spaces," he said.
 
Candalepas, who is a Greek Orthodox Christian, said that he hesitated when first approached by the Australian Islamic Mission in Punchbowl a decade ago.
 
"I never imagined myself as someone who would build a mosque," he said. "It wasn't anything negative (but rather) a sense of not having been aware that I could create something for a faith that I knew nothing about.
 
To find inspiration, Candalepas traveled to Ahmedabad and Agra in India while forming his vision of a mosque that could represent Australia's Muslim community.
 
"I wanted a building that looked both ways -- forwards as well as back," he said. "There's no point in ignoring history -- that wouldn't make it relevant."
 
The traditional dome is still present in his design, but it has been reimagined as 99 half-domes cascading down from a larger, central one. In January, calligraphers will arrive from Turkey to spend a month inscribing the domes with Allah's 99 names in Arabic.

Website(s):
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