In Islamic architecture: the significance of a mosque lies in a constant dialogue between function and form; it is difficult to decide when one listens to the word “mosque” what comes in his mind; the act of worship or a silhouette of dome accompanied by minarets. Even though Kabba, the first structure, representing Islamic architecture, was a platonic form that indicates a style that resonates with austerity and simplicity. In the current times, Islam was symbolized: through the presence of preconceived forms of the mosques, which didn’t exist during the initial years of Islam.
When Islam began to spread throughout the globe it gained influence from multiple civilizations that it came across, each having its tradition, custom, architectural style, etc. The symbolic elements of the mosque were also a result of such influences; domes were a component of the Byzantine architecture; that was adopted by Islamic architecture during the Umayyad period in 691AD. Similarly, the minaret was implemented in Islamic architecture during the Ummayad period in the 8th century. Thus these elements were adopted in Islamic architecture for functional purposes, but with time they developed a symbolic significance: due to the scale of these elements, they were used as symbols of power and authority of the mosque. Such symbolic affiliation was created through a decade of mosques designed, recently in the 20th century, these symbolic meanings were questioned under the light of the western modernization movement.
During the time frame between the 1960s to the 21st century; various mosques were designed in Karachi, inspired by the prevailing architecture movements that include; Modernism, Postmodernism, Deconstructivism, and critical regionalism, and Sustainability. These mosques contrast from the traditional architectural language of the mosques and tend to create a distinctive statement in its context. Each of these mosques has challenged the formal articulation of domes and minarets and explored the spatial quality of mosques.
1. Al-kibriya Mosque- Modernism
Al-Kibriya mosque; is situated in Berar Society, designed by Ar. Zameer Mirza Rizki in 1970’s. The entrance: was announced through a series of steps and an arch; the arch resembles the one used in Mughal architecture. The arches at the entrance are the only traditional element used by the architect; apart from that, the entire structure follows the modern structural language with a straight line and platonic form. The mosque does not consist of any dome it has a flat roof, and instead of an arched colonnade dividing the Suhn and Prayer hall, thick rectangular columns: were designed by the architect. Following the idea of simplicity, a modernism principle, he designed windows that are minimalist in ornamentation yet fulfilled the function of screens.
2. Tooba Masjid-Post Modernism
Tooba Masjid: is located on Old Korangi Road: designed by Ar. Babar Hamid Chahaun in 1979; is also famous by the name of Gol Masjid. The architectural style of the mosque is known to be Post-modernist, where the mosque tried to create a balance between the modern principles and the traditional elements. The dome of the mosque is the most prominent feature; it does not follow the typical proportion instead, it was exaggerated to create a free floor plan for the prayer hall without any columns. A Screen façade; used to divide the prayer hall and Shun instead of a column architect has used a screen façade but, the arches are still present. The play of proportion present in the dome and arches can also be found in the minaret, as the height of the minaret is reduced, it does not stand as a marker and rather creates a balance or dialogue with the dome.
3. Masjid-e-Faran- Sustainability
Masjid-e-Faran: is situated on Shahr-e-Faisal next to FTC designed by AR. Misbah Najmi in the 1980’s. An artificial hill is constructed around the mosque; one can only view the dome and the minaret from above as the entire structure is embedded inside. The context was significant for the architect: thus, depressing the mosque underground was an attempt to create an open space in the middle of the city. The hill consists of multiple wind catchers that help to maintain ventilation in the mosque. The dome is designed to filter in maximum light in the prayer hall. Ornamentation can also be found on the minarets though the minarets contradict the traditional form as it is more orthogonal.
4. IBA Campus Prayer Hall- Critical Regionalism
The mosque was designed by NBCL in 2013, it was a replacement for an old demolished mosque. The mosque reflects a constant struggle of finding a balance between the individual identity and international style. The mosque creates a propionate composition of the modern form and spiritual essence of the space. The mosque is designed through a modern formal articulation, neglecting the added ornamentation of dome and minaret, and it uses multiple screens and play of light to keep the spirituality of the mosque alive. The mosque is designed as a collective worship space to provide people an isolated spiritual space where they can worship regardless of their religion. It was the first mosque designed in Pakistan that neglected to follow any form of symbolism associated with the mosque to create it as a collective worship space.