Environmental concerns have been paramount in the design of the new Cambridge Mosque. Muslims feel a strong imperative to protect the environment, as it is a gift from the Divine. Abdal Hakim Murad notes that “Islamic civilization has been based on the rejection of waste as an underestimation of God’s blessing, and so in the construction of the new mosque here in Cambridge, we were very much at the forefront of the local environmental movement”.
In 2009, Marks Barfield Architects won the competition to design the building with their concept of the mosque as a calm oasis within a grove of trees. With the collaboration of UK-based specialists such as the geometer Keith Critchlow, garden designer Emma Clark, and artists Amber Khokhar and Ayesha Gamiet, among others, the final design marries traditional Islamic architecture, geometry and horticulture with indigenous English materials, plants and craftsmanship to create a unique synthesis.
The defining feature of Cambridge Mosque is its timber structure. The columns, or ‘trees’, reach up to support the roof in an interlaced octagonal lattice vault structure evocative of English gothic fan vaulting, famously used at the nearby King’s College Chapel. The timber is sustainably sourced spruce which has been curved and laminated. Roof lights are located above the ‘trees’, bathing the prayer hall in light. The octagonal geometry has strong symbolism in Islamic art, suggesting the cycle of inhalation and exhalation – the ‘Breath of the Divine’.
Cambridge Mosque aims to be Europe’s first eco-friendly mosque by incorporating specialised design features to minimise carbon emissions. Additionally, the project’s award-winning London Eye architect, Marks Barfield Architects, worked closely with world renowned sacred geometer, Keith Critchlow from The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London, to include architectural elements from both traditional Islamic architecture as well as the surrounding city of Cambridge in the design. Moy Materials were delighted to be involved in the build where the mosque will accommodate a congregation of 1,000 worshippers, as well as state of the art teaching areas, meeting rooms, a morgue, a café and an Islamic garden designed by Emma Amina Clark.
Moy specified the Paralon Total Roof System, under our uniquely design acoustically considered tapered insulation schemes, which has been tested as an assembly by the BBA to offer the client a long-term, single-point guarantee for the full system which gave the client complete peace of mind for many years to come.
Installing contractor Green Roof Company
Roof area 2000m2
Eco Facts about the mosque
The building is naturally lit all year round by large skylights in the roof, supplemented by low energy LED bulbs, while photovoltaic cells on the roof help generate renewable energy from sunlight. As well as being very well-insulated and naturally ventilated, the mosque is heated and cooled by locally generated energy, by way of highly efficient heat pumps in the basement that produce far more energy than they consume. This type of heat pump extracts energy from the relatively stable temperature of the air or ground water, heating the building as needed and cooling it at times of high occupancy or excess heat gains.
Grey water and rainwater are harvested to flush WCs and irrigate the grounds. The building’s carbon footprint – which is already low – will improve over time as mains electricity from renewable sources becomes more available. Green transport has also been taken into consideration in the design: there is ample space for bikes and it’s easily accessible by pedestrians, while an underground car park frees up space on site for the mosque and gardens.
At three stories high, with a façade that subtly weaves Qur’anic phrases into the Gault brickwork that is traditional in Cambridge, the mosque complements its neighbouring structures on Mill Rd, while the gardens and café make it a welcoming space for all members of the community. Its emphasis on sustainability and high reliance on green energy make this Europe’s first eco-mosque and a true landmark building for the city of Cambridge and its diverse residents.