One of the world’s very first ‘Eco-Friendly Mosque’ this building represents a pattern of how buildings of worship could be constructed in the future.
The city of Cambridge in the Eastern Midlands of the United Kingdom has had a long tradition of a multi-cultural integration. However, until very recently, there was something it was lacking. Yet as the holy month of fasting, charity, and devotion to the divine begins, Cambridge opens the doors to its newest addition to its multi-cultural landscape. Its first purpose-built Mosque, but not just any Mosque. One of the world’s very first ‘eco-friendly mosque’ this building represents a pattern of how the architecture of worship could be built in the future.
The Central Mosque, also known as the Abu Bakr Jamia Mosque, cost approximately GBP 15 million to build in its entirety and was designed by Marks Barfield Architects, who were also the innovative minds behind the London Eye and the Kew Gardens Treetop Walkway. The new Mosque represents a firm establishment and recognition of the Islamic presence in the city that has been a part of its heritage and culture for many decades.
The techniques it uses will become central to building designs across the world in the future. Whether you are constructing a Church in Kansas, founding a Mandir in India, or you want to build a mosque in Pakistan, more eco-friendly mosque methods will become the norm.
The Mosque’s arrival has been a long time coming and has not been entire without controversy. Because of its ability to host and provide for approximately 1,000 worshipers at any one time, the local community raised deep and well-founded concerns about the possibility of high levels of local traffic congestion. Around the time of its initial consultation in 2011, letters were posted anonymously through the doors of many households in the local area, encouraging residents to raise objections to their local authority.
Additionally, the local municipal council also received 50 letters of objection to the plan, but also received four times that number of letters of support, demonstrating the willingness of the region to be welcoming to the approximately 8,000 Muslims that call Cambridge their home.
The project’s founder was Tim Winter, a widely renowned scholar and lecturer who teaches Islamic studies at Cambridge University.
‘The mosque has been designed as a facility for local residents of whatever religious persuasion,’ Said Professor Winter, in a quote to Environment Journal.
‘Its public areas, including the gardens, cafeteria, and teaching space, will provide a significant new amenity for all our neighbors.’
Professor Winter explained that the ecological focus was very much in line with the nature and aims of Islam itself.
‘The mosque incorporates a number of green technologies, including air-source heat pumps, rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling, sedum roofs, photovoltaic arrays, and passive ventilation.
‘These and other features respond to the Quranic insistence on the sanctity of the natural world and the commandment to avoid waste and extravagance.
‘This build signals Islam’s constructive and healing response to the challenges and problems which the modern world faces. Muslims should be at the forefront of the fight against waste and global warming.’
Also speaking to Environment Journal, local historian Allan Brigham, said that this particular area of Cambridge, the Romsey neighborhood, has been in constant change for the last two centuries.
‘200 years ago, the only people living here were farm labourers,’ said Mr Brigham.
‘After the railway came in 1845, Romsey Town became really an area for railway workers living here, which was a community completely unknown in Cambridge and they came mainly from the east of England. They weren’t people who lived in Cambridge before.’
The project was an international initiative, funded largely from Turkey by both private and governmental donors, but it also featured donors from the Qatari government, as well as many other countries.
Dr. Murad of the Cambridge Mosque Trust said of the project to the BBC ‘There has been an urgent need for a proper mosque in Cambridge; it’s an overdue idea,
‘Cambridge is a global city but it’s been slow off the mark in having a multi-cultural space like this.’
The mosque possesses a full suite of facilities, including a prayer hall, ablution areas, and accommodation for the Imam’s family and any visiting scholars.
Julia Barfield, the principal architect behind the project said to the BBC that the idea was she wanted to create ‘a truly British mosque in the 21st Century,
‘This mosque can be a cultural bridge and takes the environmental message to one of the biggest faith communities in the world’