Cambridge central mosque gets nominated for prestigious Stirling Prize

Oct 13, 2021: The Cambridge Central Mosque has been shortlisted for the 2021 RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Stirling Prize, the UK’s most prestigious architecture award.

The Prize, to be announced October 14, is given to the architect of the building thought to be the most significant of the year for the evolution of architecture and the built environment.

The London-based architect’s body, Royal Institute of British Architects, revealed its Stirling prize shortlist which also includes the non-denominational British mosque.

The body commenting on the British mosque stated that the jury members were inspired both by Islamic and English religious architectural traditions.

The Stirling Prize jury changes each year and always includes a representative from the most recent Stirling Prize-winning practice; this year, Annalie Riches, co-founder of Mikhail Riches, joins the panel.

RIBA Chair of Award Group Jo Bacon said: “This year, the Stirling Prize shortlist represents the value and diversity of architectural invention. Our members are exploring structural and environmental challenges to deliver civic places of value to our society.

“Each one of these projects has delivered best in class environmental standards while creating extraordinary architectural solutions appropriate to their context.

About Cambridge Central Mosque, RIBA comments that “the urban intervention of inserting a mosque capable of welcoming 1,000 worshipers within a low rise, residential neighbourhood, without dominating it, is masterful.

Marks Barfield Architects, who designed the mosque, says that the concept was of a mosque as a calm oasis within a grove of trees. “We were inspired both by Islamic and English religious architectural traditions. Above all, we sort to develop the idea of a British Mosque for the 21st century,” they say.

The defining feature of Cambridge Central Mosque is its timber structure. The timber columns, or ‘trees’, reach up to support the roof using an interlaced octagonal lattice vault structure evocative of English Gothic fan vaulting, famously used at the Kings College Chapel, Cambridge, nearby.

The timber is sustainable sourced spruce, which is curved and laminated. Roof lights are located above the trees, creating a prayer hall bathed in light.

The external walls are clad in tiles of the traditional Gault colour with castellated parapets that symbolise the meeting of heaven and earth. Worshippers and visitors take a journey from the street through an Islamic garden, to a covered portico and into an atrium, preparing them in a gradual transition for the contemplation of the prayer hall.

Water consumption was found low, meeting the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge target and confirmed by meter readings. “In the water-stressed area of East Anglia, this is particularly important,” says RIBA.

Therefore, Cambridge Central Mosque is a demonstration of how architecture can embody religious and cultural philosophy and traditions while utilising sustainable and contemporary materials, it concludes.

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