The Mosque is a religious sanctuary on the east end of Parcel 2.14 for the visitors and residents of the King Abdullah Financial District, an all-new mixed-use district in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. FXFOWLE’s design – a white, rectangular volume which gently rests over a raised pool of reflecting water – is a contemporary interpretation of traditional Islamic symbolism.
The Mosque sits precisely oriented towards Mecca. Surrounded on all four sides by water, it is accessible by what appears to be floating walkways that connect to a plaza level via steps and a ramp. The main walkway leads to the primary Mosque entrance, a small portal positioned on axis with the main prayer room on the first level. Once past this opening, a central corridor leads to the prayer hall entrance. Ablution areas and administrative functions are located on either side of this corridor to accommodate the ritual of cleansing feet and hands before prayer.
At the end of the corridor, entrance doors open to reveal a double height main prayer room with a central mezzanine towards the back serving auxiliary prayer functions. In keeping with Islamic mores, women use secondary entrances to access a visually and physically separate prayer room and ablution area. Stair entrances on either end of a transverse corridor lead to the mezzanine and roof levels. The north stair entrance is used by the Imam, the spiritual leader of the Mosque, to access his living quarters – housed on the mezzanine level overlooking the main public plaza.
The structure is clad in white marble, a classical material traditionally used in mosques that symbolizes purity. The reflecting pool on which the mosque rests is lined with polished black marble known for its reflective properties. The dialogue created between the Mosque and the pool was inspired by a passage from the Qur’an, the holy text of Islam, in which Allah “places his throne on the water and then creates the world.”
The surface treatment of the Mosque’s exterior begins at the four corners of the structure. Each façade is faceted, originating from the corner and beveling in towards a focal point on each side of the building. The facades are covered with patterned metal screens of laser-cut aluminum approximately ¼” thick. An algorithmic interpretation of the eight-pointed Islamic star, the designers created the screen by abstracting a star pattern by scaling and superimposing it upon itself. The screen is supported by a steel diagrid, a diamond-shaped structural frame that is attached to the solid stone marble border. The result is an active, visually dynamic, porous metal and stone façade.
The focal point of the 65-foot x 40-foot main prayer room is the mihrab, a niche on the west wall that is carefully aligned with Mecca. The marble wall is engraved with verses from the Qur’an. The filigreed exterior screens creates a play of light and shadow on the Mosque’s interior that constantly changes with the season and time of day. Illumination is provided by concentric arrays of lighted orbs suspended from the ceiling to represent the sky.