A spiritual and cultural centre for Muslims and the wider community
RIBA National Award winner 2021
RIBA East Award winner 2021
Project Architect of the Year Award (sponsored by Taylor Maxwell), Building of the Year Award, Client of the Year Award
Marks Barfield Architects for Cambridge Mosque Trust
Contract value: £23.1m
Cost per m2: £4,436
Combining Islamic and English architectural traditions with a sensitive approach to context, this non-denominational mosque is specific to its place and time, rich in references yet without contrivance – a remarkable achievement.
Although it is a large building capable of accommodating 1000 people, the mosque has a modest presence in its low-rise, residential neighbourhood. Worshippers approach through an Islamic garden, arriving at an open, welcoming portico. Beyond, the building increases gradually in size; worshippers progress through an entrance hall and central ablution areas to arrive in the largest volume, the prayer hall.
Architecturally, the building’s defining features are engineered timber ‘trees’ that support the roof. These intricate columns manifest a geometric order that underlies the structural grid, developed in collaboration with the late artist and geometer Keith Critchlow and based on an Islamic pattern, ‘The Breath of the Compassionate’. The decorative use of structure also recalls the fan vaulting of nearby King’s College Chapel, and there are further references to local architecture in the building’s facades. Cross-laminated timber walls are clad in Cambridge Gault brick tiles. Protruding headers pick out a piece of Arabic Kufic calligraphy that reads ‘Say he is God (the) One’.
Material selection supports an ambitious sustainability agenda, achieving net zero carbon emissions in use and exceeding some RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge targets
Cambridge Central Mosque shows how cultural and religious traditions can find new expression in contemporary architecture. It is a building of evident programmatic clarity, masterfully meeting its functional requirements in ways that also foster religious contemplation and delight.