Developers broke ground on a controversial Muslim community center and mosque named Park51 in lower Manhattan. The site of the planned building was about two blocks from the World Trade Center site, and all hell broke loose as a result, with many Americans saying that the location of the mosque was inappropriate. After years of back and forth, the plan to build a cultural center/mosque in that location had reportedly been scrapped altogether.
However, a new Islamic cultural center has recently been proposed for New York City. Commissioned by the NYC-based American Society for Muslim Advancement and designed by Buro Koray Duman, an architecture studio based in New York, the proposed building would be a 100,000 square feet Islamic cultural center likely located in Manhattan.
The building, still in prototype phase, would feature a mosque/prayer center in the middle and levels with various functions extending from this central point. Some of the facilities include a gymnasium, a pool, and a gallery/memorial level. It’s a beautiful and fluid design, with different program spaces wrapped around the building and flowing out of the center room.
It’s unclear exactly where in NYC the building would stand. Many who criticized the Park51 design did so because of its proximity to the World Trade Center site. It’s unclear if a Muslim cultural center located farther away would draw criticism again.
Koray Duman, the leader of the studio, said in an interview with Dezeen Magazine that the idea behind the design is to “promote Islam as a culture, not a religion.” He hopes that New Yorkers can become a part of an interfaith dialogue, and that normalizing the traditions and practices of Muslim culture could build and strengthen the relationship between those of the religion and the greater population.
The design of the building reflects an urge for openness and transparency. The walls of this institution would be completely constructed from glass, allowing outsiders to observe the activities occurring in the building. According to Buro Koray Duman, the idea behind this design was to create “an open, transparent and welcoming space.”
Whether or not we like to admit it, America often has a practice of “otherising” different cultures and demanding that they adapt to our standards, a convention that is clearly reflected in the current election cycle.
With hundreds of thousands of Muslims in New York, establishing such a community center may be good for creating community bonds, but the backstory behind why such a structure is necessary for openness should not be forgotten either.
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