Modern Mosque: Lebanon’s Amir Shakib Arslan Mosque by L.E.F.T Architects brings new contemporary aesthetics to Islamic architecture

Architecture. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and demographically, the majority of the Muslim population is made up of young people. “You’d expect then,” suggests L.E.FT Architects Principal Makram el Kadi, “that when it comes to the architecture of Islam, which is the mosque, you would see much more experimentation and forward thinking. Our challenge from the client was to create a spiritual space using an understanding of Islam, but interpreted in a way that would speak to people living in our time.” Set in Lebanon’s picturesque mountain village of Moukhtara amongst several churches and a palace, the Amir Shakib Arslan Mosque, which was completed in 2016, represents a surprisingly updated take on a space with a timeless purpose.

Starting with an 18th century building that once served as a steel workshop, el Kadi explained, “To the heaviness of the stone, we added an ephemeral steel structure that takes the shape of a mosque but dissects it into a modern reading.” With a nod to the building’s past, el Kadi, his partner Ziad Jamaleddine, and their project team commissioned local craftsman to weld steel rods into a semitransparent minaret and inverted dome. Contributing more than just an ornamental flourish, large three-dimensional Arabic calligraphy braces the building. The minaret is marked Allah (God), while the box containing the inverted dome is inscribed with Insan (human)—daring those who pass to consider the symbiotic relationship between the sacred and banal, both in prayer and in ordinary moments of everyday life.

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