In normal times, Dominic Stevens walks past the Blackpitts Mosque in Dublin 8 twice a day – on his way in and back from work at JFOC Architects in Harold’s Cross. At the moment, the sacred space is housed in an old cream warehouse, behind a blank cream wall. Stevens’ and his fellow architects have a different vision, though.
New designs filed as part of a planning application with Dublin City Council show the warehouse gone, replaced with a dedicated mosque for its congregation, and 27 residential apartments between the first and sixth storeys.
“They thought that they would like to dignify their mosque and stop worshipping in a shed, and have something that feels like a mosque,” says Stevens, on the phone from his home office on Thursday afternoon.
The designs blend traditional Muslim architecture with the familiar red-brick of Dublin’s streetscapes and the surrounding Liberties area, he said.
“You can walk in off the street into an open space. There’s a colonnade and it has a nice tree planted in it. It feels like an open, porous building and people know what’s going on,” he says.
Earlier designs also included a café, like the mosque in Clonskeagh, but that didn’t fit in the end. When Stevens started the project he knew very little about Islam, he says. This feels like a big responsibility, he says, with a laugh.
According to his client Azhar Bari, it was the architect’s knowledge of Dublin’s built heritage and its shared colonial history – reflected perhaps in the influence of the early-modern Islamic architecture being discovered by the British in Pakistan and India – that won him over to Stevens’ proposal. The site is owned by Independent Clothing Holdings, a company run by the Bari family who are from Pakistan, and moved to Navan from the UK in the early 1970s.