Filigree Mosque

 filigree mosque
 
 

The Muslim community of Davis sought a visible presence in this Central Valley college town, which was unfamiliar with the customs, culture, and traditions of Islam. The building needed to create a shared identity for a diverse membership from across North Africa and the Middle East. Many of the founders were scholars of food and agriculture at UC Davis, who shared a deep understanding of the Central Valley, as many of their homelands are similarly dependent on water systems for agriculture. The community required an iconic but affordable building, one they could help to build. The program was ambitious for the small lot. Funding came from individual donations, along with pledges to help with the construction.

 
 
 
 

Maria met with the various groups served by the mosque. She visited mosques in the region and researched mosques in other countries. She realized that the small Davis mosque was a part of a global Muslim community bound by common ritual space, geometry, and symbolic forms, and she translated this vocabulary for the Central Valley setting.

Maria emphasized the south façade, facing the UC Davis campus. Its brilliant blue is used in Islamic architecture, and it reflects the California sky — a fitting symbol of the synthesis of cultures the mosque embodies. The façade, visible from blocks away, recalls centuries of Islamic architecture, its perforated steel plate reminiscent of screens found throughout the Islamic world. Maria designed the rear as a muted, gabled form, to blend into the single-family residential neighborhood. She maximized the buildable area, pre-defined by setbacks established in cardinal directions. To orient the prayer area toward Mecca, the interior geometry is turned 19 degrees.

Much of the membership and many Muslim sub-contractors in the region participated in the construction, donating material and labor, in addition to funds. Maria managed the process, integrating lovingly handcrafted parts with more modern techniques. The strategy was to build a basic, stucco-clad wood frame and, as contributions permitted, to add elements evocative of Islamic culture, translated into locally available methods and materials.

A cultural and religious center, the bustling heart of the town’s Muslim community, its symbolism serves as reminders of the home countries each member had left behind. Echoing the rhythm of Islamic prayer times, constantly shifting shadows travel across the south-facing building through the day. The town has welcomed the center and the diverse, international community within.

 
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