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Al Manaar, The Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre

London , Kensington and Chelsea

Sector: Cultural, Education
Project stage: Complete

The Muslim Cultural Centre designed by Frederick Gibberd Partnership is on a former Railway goods yard bounded to the North by the main line from Paddington and to the East by the Westway elevated road. Frederick Gibberd Architects have been involved in a diverse collection of religious projects in London including Regents Park Mosque. The design is part of a group of buildings of various uses being co-ordinated by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea under the City Challenge initiative.

The design intent was to provide much needed community, education and cultural facilities for the local predominantly Muslim population, and aims to promote a greater understanding and tolerance between all sections of the community. In addition to the prayer hall, there are various uses including a library, exhibition centre, a multipurpose hall, educational and administration rooms arranged over two floors. The Tower symbolically marks the centre in the manner of traditional mosques as well as providing caretakers facilities.

Gibberds addressed two basic site constraints in the layout of the building. Firstly the development is aligned precisely to Mecca, with the Prayer Hall situated at the eastern end of the site. Secondly, the disposition of the other spaces reflect the need to minimise the sound disturbance from the operational railway and nearby Westway. A courtyard within the development is shielded on all sides to form a tranquil area in an otherwise noisy environment. Heavy construction has also been used with the minimum of glazing on the north elevation and to the prayer hall. Gibberd Architects vision for the project was to depict a blend of contemporary European design and Islamic elements in the North African tradition.