Sacred Architecture

Cambridge Central Mosque

The design brief for the Cambridge Central Mosque required the weaving of the traditional elements of the building with the contemporary aspects of our current time. This contrasts to the formulation of most modern buildings that lack reference to history, culture and the building’s setting.

The design for the Cambridge Mosque was inspired by both Islamic and English religious architectural traditions. It sought to develop the idea of a British mosque for the 21st century: as Abdal Hakim Murad, chairman of the Cambridge Mosque Trust, explained, “creating a brand new sacred space has been the main challenge, to bring together something that’s very ancient and timeless with the very latest technologies.” More than ten years of dedicated work has resulted in a pioneering building, one that seems to have grown organically out of the landscape and celebrates our shared love of beauty.”

The design marries traditional Islamic architecture, geometry and horticulture with indigenous English materials, plants and craftsmanship to create a unique synthesis. The defining feature of the Cambridge Mosque is its timber structure. The columns, or ‘trees’, reach up to support the roof in an interlaced octagonal lattice vault structure, evocative of English fan vaulting, used nearby at the celebrated King’s College Chapel. The timber is sustainably sourced spruce which has been curved and laminated. Roof lights are located above the ‘trees’, bathing the prayer hall in natural light. The octagonal geometry has strong symbolism in Islamic art, suggesting the cycle of inhalation and exhalation – the ‘Breath of the Divine.’

Worshippers and visitors enter initially into an Islamic garden before passing through a covered portico and then into an atrium, preparing them gradually for the contemplation of the prayer hall, which faces Mecca. The combination of gardens, water and the vaulted prayer spaces has been used throughout Islamic history, reminding us of the inter-connectedness of people with the natural world.

Sustainable environmental aspects have been incorporated into the design. Abdal Hakim Murad notes that, “Islamic civilization has been based on the rejection of waste, which is an underestimation of God’s blessings, and so in the construction of the new mosque we were very much at the forefront of the local environmental movement.”

The building is naturally lit all year round by the large skylights, while solar roof panels generate renewable energy, feeding low energy LED light bulbs. As well as the mosque being well-insulated and naturally ventilated, it is heated and cooled by heat pumps in the basement, which uses the natural ground and air temperatures to produce much more energy than they consume. Grey water and rainwater are used to flush toilets and irrigate the grounds. Green transport has been accommodated with good pedestrian links, bike parking and cars parked in the basement to free space at ground level.

The Cambridge Central Mosque was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects’ East Award 2021 and the Cambridge Mosque Trust received the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Client Award 2021.

The link to the Cambridge Central Mosque is:-