This is Sancaklar Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey overlooking the Buyukcekmece Lake, completed in 2012-13. The mosque occupies a 1,200-sq.m space and can hold 650 people. This mosque made up of light grey stone and reinforced concrete has some unique features. Do you know them?
Unlike some other modern mosques in Istanbul that make bold statements, Sancaklar Mosque emphasises on essence, not form. So, when Emre Arolat Architects were approached by Sancaklar Family to design a mosque, the architect decided to focus solely on the “essence” of a religious space, by distancing himself from discussions on form. As a mosque does not have a predefined form and anywhere clean may be a prayer’s room, classical Ottoman mosque scheme had to be confronted with.
So, there is no dome reaching towards the celestial realms, instead the roof is a series of ever decreasing layers of geometric shapes cut from reinforced concrete that resemble the steps you descended moments before. Interestingly, the interior is not adorned with calligraphy and symbolism.
The structure is uniquely minimalistic but at the same time blends into the very landscape in which it was built. This submerging feature and the green roof all above provides a natural insulation against heat loss and gain. The design aimed at representing purest forms of light and matter, just as a primary inner world, free from all cultural burdens. The disappearance of the building in the slope of the site, anchorage to the ground as if it has always been there, getting rid of all temporal and cultural engagements were aimed.
The only visible elements of the mosque are the courtyard surrounded by horizontal walls and a vertical prismatic mass of stone (minaret), which depicts that this is a “place” and the inscription signifies that this is a place for praying. The cascades following the natural slope turns into steps as one moves through the landscape, down the hill and leads to the entrance at the lower courtyard. The prayer hall reached directly, a simple cave like space, becomes a dramatic and awe inspiring place to pray and be alone with God. The interior is simple where materials put forward themselves as they are, free from redundancies. The walls and the ceiling strengthen the feeling of purification and humbleness. The space may be defined as a meditation space. The only ornament is the daylight that leaks on the Qiblah wall, changing according to the time of the day. The slits and fractures along this wall enhances the directionality of the prayer space. A very special element is the letter “waw” on the reflective black wall of infinity. First time in mosque architecture, women have the chance to pray just in the same row as the men, contrary to being at the back as in all others. They are placed at an elevated and separated part of the hall. The complex includes the ablution halls, restrooms and the imam’s house from where he can reach the hall directly.
The mosque has won the Aga Khan Award and Mies van der Rohe Award.