Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Eskandari speaks on American mosques

Former Associate Director of the American Institute of Architects Maryam Eskandari discussed the roles of gender, architectural functionality and modernity in a public lecture before an audience of about 25 on Wednesday night.

Eskandari, who is currently working on a post-professional degree in modern Islamic architecture in the West, said that her inspiration started with an interest in American mosques.

While American mosques seem to be at risk, following a trend in Europe to ban the minaret and the Ground Zero controversy, Eskandari noted that American mosques have been supported in the past by figures like Eisenhower and Rockefeller.

“Eisenhower stated that this mosque was part of a rich tradition,” Eskandari said. Years later, when funding fell short for a new mosque, “Rockefeller stepped in and paid $1 million for a minaret.”

From the first major American mosque, designed by Mario Rossi in 1949, to the high point of American mosques in 1980, to the current 1,500 mosques that exist throughout the country, American mosques have experienced a transition from more traditional architecture to postmodern designs.

Rossi’s mosque was commissioned to honor a Turkish ambassador who had died in Washington, D.C., and, like most of the mosques of its time, it was very nostalgic of traditional architecture.

Park51, on the other hand, was designed to be very clean-cut and modern — and despite all the controversy that surrounded its location near Ground Zero — was intended to signal unity among different faiths.

“It was supposed to bring the three Abrahamic faiths together, and it had a very postmodern, contemporary style of architecture,” Eskandari said.

While Eskandari described the push for an end to American mosques as an external force, she also described the internal force of gender equality within mosques.

Read More: Daily Princetonian