22.12.2021

Mayor Mohammad Hanif Jame Mosque

Located adjacent to the Azimpur graveyard in Lalbagh, a historical area established by the Mughals over 400 years ago, is the Mayor Mohammad Hanif Jame Mosque.

Project History

In 2015, I was called by the newly elected honorable Mayor Sayeed Khokon to his office for a discussion on the role of architecture in old Dhaka. After a long discussion, we arrived at the idea of a new mosque design at the “Azimpur koborosthan”, one of the city’s oldest graveyards built in 1807. I was offered only a small remuneration, being the single source tender for this project, but I considered it my contribution to Old Dhaka since that is where I was born and brought up. I returned home and discussed the idea with my mother. She told me it was an opportunity for me to serve the people of my birthplace, offer prayer to Allah for my father who was lain to rest in that very graveyard, and if for nothing else, a mosque is always a place of gathering of good people and intentions, so I should build it. Inspired by my mother’s wisdom, I happily agreed to design the mosque. My mother also died in January 2016 and buried in the same graveyard.

The client’s initial idea was to build the mosque on the south edge of the graveyard facing south towards the adjacent Azimpur Road. The total land area given to us was 1605 sqm. The project brief was simple, including a basement carpark, a prayer hall including Shaan for approx.1500 people (with a small women’s prayer hall), an ablution space, toilets, the Imam’s accommodation, and so on.

In order to execute the project, the DSCC launched a bidding program as per the government’s procurement procedure. The lowest bidder won the contract.

The project has since been built as per the client’s intentions and is now used as a full-fledged mosque serving its community and the people coming to the graveyard from all over the city.

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Description

Located adjacent to the Azimpur graveyard in Lalbagh, a historical area established by the Mughals over 400 years ago, is the Mayor Mohammad Hanif Jame Mosque. Built almost entirely out of locally sourced brick, on a land belongs to the Dhaka South City Corporation. Much of the design was inspired by the Mughal Mosques in nearby areas.

A key feature derived from the Mughal mosque was the “shaan” – an extended open-to-sky terrace attached to the entrance of the main hall that also functions as a threshold space between the bustling street to the south and the serene calm of the Azimpur graveyard to the north. Philosophically, the shaan is a representation of the connection between the terrestrial city, the celestial graveyard, and its own Mughal origins. It is a symbolic confluence of space and time. West of the shaan is a prayer hall featuring a frosted glass floor segment which also functions as a flanked mehrab, a brick jail (net) on the south facade of the hall to filter the noise from the street while simultaneously allowing in summer winds and the fragrance from flower plants. The skylight and floor lights are arranged in Qatar lines to provide unobtrusive lighting that also guides devotees during prayer. The attached minaret (tower) by the south entrance replaces the traditional minar design with a rectangular design to accommodate an elevator shaft for accessibility.

The bridge to the north, inspired by the “Pul sirāt” mentioned in the Surah Maryam from the Qur’an, runs

Parallel to the graveyard and connects the upper levels of the main building, forming a frame of glass and steel that frames the graveyard beyond.

The east wing contains the women’s prayer space, living quarters for management, and a naturally ventilated hybrid ablution space. This mosque serves as a departure from traditional mosques in both physical design and philosophical motivations, combining old and new ideas into a more contemporary concept.

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Significance and Impact

As a work of architecture, the Mayor Mohammad Hanif Jame Mosque is an innovative modern rendition of a traditional mosque. Its design language which focuses on sustainability, usability, and spirituality is the first of its kind in Old Dhaka, and emphasizes the importance of forging a bond between the city and its people.

The project seamlessly joins city, mosque, and graveyard both philosophically and functionally by combining traditional and contemporary elements into one comprehensive symbol. As a symbol, the Mayor Mohammad Hanif Jame Mosque marks a turning point for the ongoing political conflicts in Dhaka city and the future improvement and rejuvenation of the Old Dhaka area. Fraught with political corruption and poor management under the Dhaka South City Corporation (the south city’s governing body), Old Dhaka sees little to no maintenance and major projects are frequently neglected careful consideration and execution.

After significant effort in persuading and motivating involved parties, and through rigorous systematic execution of project plans, the Mayor Mohammad Hanif Jame Mosque has become the first major mosque development project in Old Dhaka to have garnered significant positive reception since the Mughal rule. This project stands as a beacon of hope for the future of the Old Dhaka area and the city as a whole as it is a testament to the ability of those who care for the city to overcome corruption and political turmoil to create something for the betterment of their home. The Mayor Mohammad Hanif Jame Mosque sets a new precedent for future developments in Old Dhaka and eventually the entirety of Dhaka.

Material, Construction and Technology

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Due to Dhaka being a high seismic activity zone, we needed to exercise extra care in designing the foundational support structures. To achieve a strong foundation, we used reinforced concrete as structural system which is mostly cladded with 2”x 4” x 8” Mirpur Ceramic brick with 0.5% water absorption quality. In order to keep the interior ceiling plate clean, mushroom as cast RCC columns have been used like a tree. In addition glossy concrete ceiling has been used for reflections and columns are matt for distinction. A steel and glass bridge also created inspired by the Quran connecting not only the functions but beyond.

The major challenge however was with our selected contractor, Mostofa Sarkar, who is the president of Ward 57 from the ruling party. Contractor selection was mostly influenced by political hegemony and a kind of political rehabilitation of party men. In most previous cases, the contractors were unprofessional ruling party men who tried to create profit by funneling money for themselves and at the end a poor quality project as outcome become the social headache. We held workshops (which had never happened before) with the DSCC and the contractor in order to develop a work methodology for the expected end result. We, as the consultant, went beyond our roles and began training the contractor’s work force, selecting appropriate vendors within the budget on their behalf and ensuring minimum wastage and completion of the project within the time schedule. As a result of our efforts, we developed a good liaison with the contractor, the DSCC, and the Old Dhaka community because of the smooth progress of the work. This made construction profitable for the contractor with good reputation. Eventually initiated a culture of good architecture in Old Dhaka using public funding.

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