Waleed Arafa established his firm Dar Arafa Architecture in Cairo in 2006. Besides specific commissions, his design activity focuses on the definition of a contemporary Islamic architecture. In his words, his approach “searches for possible strategies to reconnect to the tradition, often a discontinued one, of those countries holding a rich heritage in terms of architecture of the Islam (…). At the same time, it aims at checking and renewing this legacy within completely new contexts”.
These are the ideas underlying the project for the Al Abu Stait mosque in Basuna, a small town in the north of Egypt. The building restates the features of the established typology – the sequence of entrance and worshipping spaces, consistent with the rituals that take place here, while in parallel it engages in a few innovations which make it stand out from the village’s other sacred buildings – the minaret and the holy space intended specifically for women are firsts in Basuna.
The ceiling is certainly the major element of the entire project. Merely pragmatic concerns – the chaotic surroundings, continuously crossed by crowds, noise and bad smells – suggest to isolate the mosque by translating all of the openings upwards. Natural light makes its way through 108 skylights, square in plan and with a distinctive pendentive-shaped section.
A deeper symbolic tension triggers the form of the twisted columns, whose rotation extends and multiplies within the large central dome, so as to simulate the devotees’ spiritual path of ascension towards the divinity.
Project: Al Abu Stait mosque
Location: Basuna, Egypt
Architects: Dar Arafa Architecture
Project leader: Waleed Arafa
Size: 497 sqm
As seen on: Domus