Multi-user mosque with prayer spaces in Transvaalbuurt
Transvaalbuurt, on the east side of Amsterdam, is a multicultural district with large resident communities of Moroccan and Turkish origins. At the centre of the district, on Joubertstraat, Architectenbureau Marlies Rohmer has built a mosque – officially termed a Multifunctional Community Centre – on commission of the Amsterdam Borough of Oost/Watergraafsmeer. The facility includes two prayer halls, offices and course classrooms for Turkish and Moroccan community organizations.
Hybrid of amsterdam school and arabic architecture
The master plan of Transvaalbuurt was designed by the architect H.P. Berlage. It was built in the early 1920s and is a characteristic example of the Amsterdam School style. The new Community Centre harmonizes with the urban design of Transvaalbuurt, taking up the smooth building lines of the perimeter block but still standing out distinctly between the facades of the adjacent housing. The facade has classical proportions, consisting of a tripartite division unambigously terminated at the top by a one-storey high cornice ornamented with brickwork “rosettes”. The architectures of the Amsterdam School and of Arabic architecture have in common a robust massing combined with ornamentation. Both principles formed design starting points in the present design. The facade is varied with panels of relief brickwork, large and small windows, and areas of filigree masonry. The lacy screens of brick help establish a relation between the prayer halls and the street outside, while respecting the privacy of the worshippers. The plasticity of the facade culminates in a wide oriel window which literally joins the two user communities. This is the location of the shared course classrooms.
The design: open and closed
The square in front of the building reinforces the public character of the multi-user mosque. The playing fields on the square are a place where youth and local residents come together. The square becomes a “red carpet” leading up to the entrance of the Community Centre, and is an ideal communal meeting place that supports the programme of the building. The garden at the rear adjoins the prayer halls and serves as a meeting place for the two user communities. The ground-floor prayer halls have double-height ceilings and individual internal entrances. The orientation of the prayer halls corresponds to the site yet is aligned almost exactly towards Mecca. Could that be a mere coincidence? The space between the two prayer halls and the central main entrance contains ancillary functions such as washrooms and smaller offices. Above them is a mezzanine with prayer spaces for women. The second floor contains course classrooms, and the third floor houses the offices of the employment centre. All the spaces are joined by a single four-storey high central staircase. The main entrance is prominent and forms the central pivot of the building. The central foyer is the main place for interaction between the different communities. The relation between the prayer halls and the street is an ambivalent one. On the one hand, there is a wish for a visible identity and relation to the neighbourhood, while on the other it is not the intention to put the worshipping users on display. This contradiction has been solved by blending the transparent and closed features of the facade into semi-transparent planes of filigree brickwork, combined a pattern of small, square openings. A large window opens a view onto the shared space adjoining the prayer hall. The spaces of Moroccan and Turkish organizations each have their own entrance, but these are subordinate to the imposing shared main entrance. The separate entrances are, like the main entrance, used by both men and women.