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albanian cultural center, islamic cultural center, BIG, tirana, mosque, shaded space

Albania sits at the crossroads of three major religions: Islam, Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, and two new churches were recently completed for the later religions. So in order to promote religious harmony within a capital city in the midst of major renovations, Scanderbeg Square has been set aside for the Islamic cultural center. Playing off the orientation of the existing square as well as alignment towards Mecca, the buildings’ forms emerge from these intersecting axes. The back of the buildings line up with the streets while a series of semi-covered plazas, two minor ones on the sides of the Mosque and a major plaza with a minaret in front, face Mecca.

The mosque area is flexible to accommodate 1,000 people for daily prayers all the way up to 10,000 for special holy days. All the shaded spaces are cool and inviting, while the curved facades are covered in a multitude of rectangular windows inspired by mashrabiya screens. Next to the mosque will be The Quran Gardens, which will contain all of the plants mentioned in the Quran in the same amount as the number of times they appear in the holy scripture. The project team for the 27,000 sq m center includes BIG, Martha Schwartz Landscape, Buro Happold, Speirs & Major, Lutzenberger & Lutzenberger, and Global Cultural Asset Management.

Bjarke Ingels, founding partner of BIG, who we’re certain must have cloned himself to manage everything he’s doing, said about the project, “This project is very significant for us for two reasons: Firstly it is a privilege to contribute to the ambitious rejuvenation of Tirana City – especially since it is happening not by the random accumulation of singular monuments – but rather in accordance with a careful and considerate holistic master plan. Secondly and perhaps most importantly –religious tolerance is one of our greatest challenges today– politically, culturally and even urbanistically. With the construction of the New Mosque of Tirana, The Islamic Center and The Museum of Religious Harmony – Tirana will reestablish the equilibrium by adding a mosque to the newly completed Orthodox and Catholic Cathedrals – making Tirana an example for the rest of the world as a global capital of religious harmony.”