Typological Transformations of the Sacred and Secular

Defined by Quatremère de Quincy in his Dictionnaire d'Architecture (1825), type “presents less the image of a thing to copy or imitate completely, than the idea of an element which must itself serve as a rule for the model.” In this sense it is used by architects as a design tool for different building typologies. Since its definition, the concept of type has gone through several transformations. In this studio course, the architectural type as a set of design principles capable of establishing relationships between architectural conditions and cultural practices was considered.

The first project of the semester was a genealogical study of the Mosque Typology intended to describe the architectural conditions that constitute the mosque type, explaining and formulating how they can and should relate to each other. The research described the operating system traditionally followed by architects and society for the design and construction of mosques, through the analysis of the spatial relationships existing between architectural conditions, atmospheric qualities, and the cultural / social / functional / religious practices traditionally followed in the design of mosques.

The final design project asked students to design an Islamic Community Center for the city of Philadelphia, PA. The project included the various elements of a traditional mosque: prayer hall, multifunction room, an outdoor courtyard, a reading room, and including the necessary ancillary spaces of shoe room, kitchen, rest rooms (men, women), and ablution rooms (men, women). In addition to the religious spaces the center also included education and event spaces focused on outreach and education of the community concerning issues of the Islamic faith, these spaces included: classrooms, auditoria, offices, gymnasium and modest exhibition spaces. The project thus incorporated not only the religious spaces required of the Islamic faith (sacred), but also the irreligious spaces of the community center (secular). How one negotiated these two types of spaces, in addition to considering how they might produce different notions of public space, were central to the project.

The site was located in the city of Philadelphia, PA and is an existing parking lot located on the NE corner of Vine and North 18th Streets. The site for the project is the entire existing parking lot, approximately 75,000 SF. It is situated within the general vicinity of Logan’s Square one of the four original green squares of the city as designed by William Penn in 1682. The square was later incorporated into the early 20th century urban renewal design of Greber which reoriented the North West quadrant of the city around a long civic and cultural boulevard (now know as Benjamin Franklin Parkway) locating various civic and cultural institutions around the perimeter of Logan Square. A primary concern of the project was to investigate how to both reincorporate the vacant site back into the parkway promenade while still maintaining a singular religious autonomy.

1. Architectural spatial qualities / experiences / perceptions
2. Typological transformations (the mosque)
3. Contemporary role of urban public space (sacred and the profane)
4. Organization and design for multiple occupancy classes
5. Ability of Architecture to mediate between various social and cultural constituents
6. Political potential of the building façade (elevations) to project a specific social and cultural identity in the contemporary urban context

*This class was offered as a 3rd year design studio