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Religious spaces

Contextualization and anchoring of religious spaces in cities

Remi Bogaert

Published Apr 14, 2021

Contextualization and anchoring of the Mosque in Western cities

Contemporary: Belonging to or occurring in the present context

Contemplative: Having measurable effects on the mental state of bystanders

Culture: Habits and customs that a nation has in the country itself or that people take from their country of origin

Material culture: Influence of the material on the architecture

Sacredness: Dedicated to a religious purpose

Humbleness: Adopting an attitude that does not claim power or honor

Quran: The Islamic sacred book

The embedding of a Muslim space in a non-Muslim society in a time and place where new mosques often meet with political resistance requires a reflective process that not only reduces the issues of political and religious representation but also investigates the origins of the religious space and the material culture of the mosque. Despite many mosques have been built in Europe, the designing and development of a contemporary mosque in a Western city often is a process of investigation. Besides the many issues related to political nature and the empirical aspects of non-Muslim residents in a city, it also issues form and design, building traditions, and religious dogma. It reflects on the relation between ritual and architectural form.

Architecture is a direct reflection of the socio-economic, technological, and cultural conditions of a place. It involves understanding the social context in which the architectural artefact is situated. Each subculture within an area contributes in its own way to the general society. Because different subcultures interact at various levels, they enrich and change each other and the culture in which both arise.

Religious and contemplative buildings have the purpose to release the boundary between human and spirit. In western architecture, mostly through the use of monolithic materials, natural elements, and a plan which compliments human circulation, its sacredness is characterized. Transformation and evolution of architectural styles have led to religious architecture being applied in new ways. Instead of the overwhelming characteristics of gothic and baroque architecture, contemporary religious buildings are characterized by elements from postmodernism, minimalism, and futurism which give the spaces a more intimate and calm atmosphere. In Mosque architecture, both standardized architectural elements, as well as basic religious elements, are used to achieve the desired effects of a contemplative atmosphere within the building and a change of state between the impure and bustle environment versus the purity, simplicity and humbleness environment of the Mosque. In addition to applying architectural elements, the customs and rituals that take place in a space also influence the way in which a mosque can be anchored and reinterpret in a western city. Religious rules, occurring from traditions and rituals, are often difficult to accept in a new context by residents, which makes it more difficult to anchor such a complex within the city. Involving residents in the process of mosque development and standing up for other opinions is an important aspect here.


Ars Floreat (n.d.). De Heilige Koran. Oregon State University, The Oriental & Religious Publishing Corporation LTD. 

Allievi, S. (2010). Mosques in Europe Why a solution has become a problem. London, Alliance Publishing Trust 

Hoag, J.D. (1977). Islamic Architecture. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated.

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