DW: You received the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture for building an environment-friendly mosque in the Bangladeshi capital. What is so unique about your mosque?
Marina Tabassum: I focused on spirituality, which, I believe, is essential to prayers. The design of the Bait ur Rouf Mosque is such that it allows natural light and fresh air into the prayer hall that evokes a sense of communion and spirituality. At the same time, it reduces the dependence on the artificial means of comfort.
Marina Tabassum: ‘I focused on spirituality, which, I believe, is essential to prayers’
In a country where women are rarely allowed to enter a mosque, you actually constructed one. What kind of challenges did you face?
Actually, I did not face any challenge. In Bangladesh, mosques are rarely designed by professional architects. So, people were happy to see a mosque that was designed by a real architect. Besides, I also raised funds to build that mosque, so the people appreciated that as well.
A mosque usually has a minaret, a dome, and a platform for sermons. But your building has none of these. How did the worshippers react to your innovative design?
Historically, the dome was used as a roof to cover a large space, which was the only available technology at that time. Now there are other structural techniques available. Also, domes became popular during the Ottoman era. I believe that these symbols tend to distract us from the spiritual essence of Islam, and that’s why my design rejected them and focused on the contemplative and spiritual aspects of the religion.
‘By allowing light and air into the prayer hall, we reduced the use of electricity’
We must not forget that mosques are also used for social interaction. That is why I wanted to give people a place where they can interact freely.
What makes the Bait ur Rouf Mosque eco-friendly?
We used local material and construction techniques to build this mosque. By allowing light and air into the prayer hall, we reduced the use of electricity. The money spent on the mosque’s maintenance is not more than 50 dollars per month, so it is pretty sustainable and the community that uses this mosque can save money.
Marina Tabassum is an award-winning Bangladeshi architect.