Stunning views of Cambridge's £23m mosque
A new £23million mosque in Cambridge is set to become an iconic standard for the rest of the country when it finally opening its doors later this year.
The builders are set to officially hand over the keys to the Mill Road mosque at the end of this month, but the grand opening will only take place once everything, including stained glass windows and marble floors, have been added.
It will be the “most architecturally distinguished mosque in the UK”, according to Dr Tim Winter, chair of the board of trustees and a Muslim for more than four decades.
The growing Muslim population of Cambridge sparked the multi-million pound mosque project, which has included £4m raised from a Turkish company, more than £300,000 by a student on her death bed and £100,000 by a Turkish artist.
The mosque will have a prayer capacity for 1,000 worshippers, and boast an underground car park that will provide space for 82 vehicles and 300 cycles.
With the build in it closing stages, the Cambridge Independent was given a behind-the-scenes tour and discovered what will be a stunning addition to the city’s landmarks.
Dr Winter, who lectures in Islamic studies at Cambridge University, said: “The capacity here is strictly 1,000 and there is no way that can be extended. The existing mosques in the city are so overcrowded but Cambridge is a global city, it is not just an English county town and we believe there are 60 different nationalities in the Muslim community in Cambridge including Chinese, Nigerians and American servicemen.
“So we want to keep access to the mosque really simple – it is non-sectarian, non-denominational, inclusive and not ethnic specific.
“I have a background in architecture so it was my responsibility to get this moving.
“Oxford has four purpose-built mosques, but this is the first in Cambridge, so we have been slow off the mark.
“But it is a bigger community here now. Property prices in the city the 90s and noughties went through the roof and it just became impossible to get land in a residential area.”
But, having secured the plot on Mill Road, the trustees chose some design heavyweights to help them turn their ideas into reality. The mosque has been designed by the late David Marks, a Jewish architect who, along with his wife Julia Barfield, designed the London Eye.
Inside, the use of supporting timbers manufactured in Switzerland is one of its most visually stunning aspects.
The main entrance will look out onto gardens, into which the whole community will be welcome, and there is also a café, again for everyone in the community to use, a meeting room and teaching zones as well as offices and accommodation for the Imam.
But it is the prayer hall that really sets the pulse racing. The timber provides a fresh look with an emphasis on nature. Natural daylight floods into the hall from the canopy, while equipment in the basement means they can recycle water to help the waste management system – both aspects are part of the aim to create a world-class eco-mosque.
“The garden area is our donation to Cambridge and can be used any time by the public,” said Dr Winter. “They will also be able to use the café and the ideology is to break down the barriers of ‘them and us’ and make everyone feel they have a stake in the mosque.
“The local community has been involved from day one and they know Cambridge needs something like this.”
He added: “The wood in the prayer hall is the first time this kind of laminated timber has been used on such a scale in this country.
“Every plank was x-rayed so the manufacturers can see if there are any defects. It has all been treated with flame-resistant material.”
The Cambridge Mosque Trust’s mission statement says the aim is to appeal to both genders and, while there are different entrances for men and women, a beautiful, intricately-carved, moveable wooden screen will be constructed to provide some separation in the prayer-hall.
Any woman from any tradition should therefore be able to find a prayer-space with which she is comfortable.
The hall will also boast octagonal windows, high in the wall, and the arched windows of the dome will have an extra layer of coloured glass in Islamic patterns.
The international sourcing of the mosque materials will be completed inside with marble flooring from Spain and oak panelling from Northern Ireland, while service access grilles will be comprised of wooden decorative panels.
Exterior walls will be finished with tile cladding that evokes Cambridge’s Victorian bricks, creating beautiful Islamic calligraphy that can also be seen on some of the world’s most famous mosques, such as the Mosque of Cordoba in Spain.
More by this authorAdrian Curtis