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Case Study: Djamaa el Djazair, Algeria

by Orlando Crowcroft on Jun 22, 2010



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Client: Government of Algeria
Designer: Jürgen Engel Architekten
Location: Algeria

PROJECT

Djamaâ el Djazaïr is set to become the third biggest mosque in the world, with a prayer hall capable of holding 35,000 worshippers and a complex including conference rooms, libraries and other facilities. Architects Drees & Sommer are working with Jürgen Engel Architekten and the engineering consultancy Krebs und Kiefer on the project, which is likely to take more than four years to complete.

THE SITE

The mosque complex will be built on a 440,000m2 footprint in the Bay of Algiers, land set aside by the Algerian government. Algeria’s hot and humid climate posed challenges for both the designers and engineers, while its seaside location has made salty air and potential high winds a major concern. The mosque’s façade is almost entirely formed from natural stone, which covers a total area of 95,000m2.

DESIGN CONCEPT

Jürgen Engel worked closely with Islamic scholars and architecture specialists to ensure that the building met the strict requirements of mosque design. Many Islamic ideas, such as the mashrabiya screen, have been given a modern makeover. The 264-metre high minaret is capped with a modern glass structure instead of traditional stone. Jürgen Engels Architect Sebastian Schöell explained that the height of the minaret was paramount. “I think it is the same thing as the skyscrapers, in North Africa everyone wants to have the tallest minaret,” he said.

The dome soars to a height of 70 metres and features a mashrabiya screen attached to the outside of the thermal shell like ribs. This gives the impression of the screen being an external support structure, although support is actually provided internally. Sunlight is reflected into the dome using a system of mirrors. The mashrabiya was made using fibre-reinforced precast concrete panels and covers a total area of 15,160m2. As well as having a decorative role, the mashrabiya helps to cool the building and provide shading to the façade of the minaret, on which it covers an area of 7,300m2.

Architect Schöell said that Jürgen Engel’s designs had got a mixed reaction in the media in Algeria. He has done his own canvassing, however, among taxi drivers on the streets of Algiers. “50% of them think that it’s a good idea, and 50% of them think that it is too much money to be spending,” he said. In terms of a Christian firm designing an Islamic place of worship, Schöell said that the client did not feel it was an issue. “They had no problem with it at all,” he said. “They said that all the new mosques, or the renovations of old mosques, were being designed by Christian architects.”



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