The Amir Shakib Arslan Mosque is a newly constructed place of worship in Moukhtara located in the Chouf mountains of Lebanon, designed by L.E.FT Architects. The project offers a contemporary interpretation of the architectural typologies of a conventional mosque, designed with a certain lightness to be a space of worship for all denominations of Islam.
The 100sqm mosque, commissioned by Walid Joumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), is a reincarnation of a mosque that once stood in the same village, and which was destroyed in 1823. Mokhtara is a village shared by a small community of Druze and Christians, neither of which typically pray in mosques, so the building exists somewhere between a religious structure and a political gesture. At the entrance to the mosque, the word ‘Insan’ (human being) is inscribed, creating a Hegelian dialectic of God/Man, putting humanity as an integral part of the equation with God, as a reminder of the humanistic tradition of Islam. The mosque is designed as a rare anti-populist gesture against identitarianism in a moment when violence is increasing against those considered having the ’wrong’ identities.
The artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan collaborated on certain design aspects of the mosque, particularly on non-architectural, aesthetic factors of its religious function. Abu Hamdan designed the prayer carpet, incorporating an image of soundwaves taken from a recording of Qur’anic recitation, but editing out the words for God in part to avoid the possibility of visitors stepping on the word, but also to reflect something important in this mosque – that God is both concealed and ultimately very present. Abu Hamdan together with Nisrine Khodr additionally created a new call to prayer that would only be broadcast internally and therefore necessitated a new kind of listening and function for a call to prayer.
L.E.FT Architects have offices in Beirut and New York.
The Amir Shakib Arslan Mosque, courtesy L.E.FT Architects.