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Beyond the Minaret: A Space for the Spirit - A Place for the City Dweller

Part 2 Dissertation 2010
Richard Yusuf Adams
University of Nottingham | UK
Architecture is a process of interpretation and designation, as much as a fashioning of form and void. Beyond the Minaret offers a shift of perspective on the dual determining factors of serving a particular way of living, and adapting this way of living to ‘particular architectural circumstances,’ where as Gadamer (Truth & Method, 1989:149) observes, ‘a building is never only a work of art.’

The way of living in question is that of the Muslim community, specifically focusing on what lies at the heart of each Muslim community: the place of communal prayer, the Mosque. The terrain of the study is limited to Europe, as the most recent place in which various Muslim communities have yet to establish an identity beyond myriad cultures - from a rich range of countries of origin - that have travelled West. The study aims not to criticise the architecture of early immigrants, or the culture of any particular people. Where orientalist studies of Islamic architecture and art often reduces layers of meaning to symbol, and where works are appreciated as artifacts and expressions of culture, this paper affirms that Islam is not a culture but a filter for culture.

The main intention therefore must be to look beyond the Minaret, beyond frozen, mimetic and imported typologies, to the lived reality of Muslim practice, where the mosque is the core space for the spirit, surrounded by various social, financial, educational and charitable elements which create a place for the city dweller, both Muslim and non Muslim alike. This urban complex, by authentically connecting to its origins, can also become part of the dialogue of the contemporary city. Architecture of true meaning speaks to its surroundings, and is understood in a wealth of ways which contribute to the broader lived experience. This study is therefore a process of unfolding and interpretation, where the actions of the prayer become the phenomenological generator of space, or the simple tending of a landscaped garden creates a transformative place in the city.

Architecture of true meaning serves the reality of place and people, and in this the European Mosque has such poetic, largely unyielded potential.

Richard Yusuf Adams

The Dissertation option has been offered to the Diploma students for the first time this year, expanding the research base of the school. Students who choose this final Y6 option come to understand architecture as an academic discipline, producing work of the highest standard of literacy and visual presentation where the thesis grows from their chosen research area. The Department of Architecture and Built Environment encourages a cross disciplinary approach to research and writing, which acknowledges architecture - both theoretical and practical - as a gathering of many elements.

Beyond the Minaret, by Richard Yusuf Adams essentially investigates the nature of Mosque within a secular society; its poetics and purpose. It pursues a particular and personal line of enquiry that contributes to the wider questions related to possible spaces for the spirit within the city. He argues the position of the Muslim community and the mosque as its heart in the contemporary context of European cities. The study examines both the historical and inner cosmological origins of the Mosque alongside the evolution and adaptation of traditional forms and its various manifestations. The dissertation is a poignant, poetic, and personal account and has been articulated with rigor and passion. Richard has adopted an appropriate philosophical approach which reveals understanding of architectural theory and practice and has independently defined and critically appraised his ideas in relation to the work of others. The student carefully evaluated and prioritized the vast body of knowledge and demonstrated his exceptional understanding of architecture through an independent and research-led attitude to learning. For all the above reasons, this dissertation has been nominated.

Tony Swannell
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