June 25 2009 | Maryam Eskandari
The Prayer and Meditation Pavilion produced by Italy's Studio Tamassociati has been nominated for a numerous architectural awards. Its monolithic, elegant and effortless exterior in comparison to the striking and vivid interior spaces has been clearly celebrated by not only architects and designer, but by the general public as well.
The project is located in Soba, Sudan. In the last two decades, this country has been exasperated by numerous inter-ethnic wars. The vast majority, 70% of the population, of Sudanese are Muslims. The remainder are between Christians and other religious faiths (Crisis in Darfur of 05/05/2004).
In designing, the Prayer and Meditation Pavilion, the architects clearly understood and succesfully articulated a platonic place for meditation for all religious and ethnic groups present in Sudan. The key elements used to create the straightforward and simple design ironically are not all that easy. The use of local materials are for certain. However, the premediatated use of light and shadow, radiates a calm and soothing theraputical atmosphere.
On the exterior, the two off-white cubes are surrounded by a large pool of water, a moat, creating a spiritual element in which symbolizes a detachment from the outside world. This large pool of water allows for religious washings. However, the wash is perceived with out any religious connotations - component containing water. The architects made sure that all architecture symbols, icons and religious elements were obscured, so that no elements could be attributed to a sole religion.
The interiors of the pavilions are embodied by the appeal of two trees, creating sacrilegious, and natural; yet sacred space, within an artificial man made atmosphere. The plan of the pavilions, two cubes, are tangent to each other on one face. A shift of half-a-width on one side allow for openings. The opening and slots peel away the outer walls , in which creates access points to each cube from opposite sides, and across the pool. Top of each pavilion are bamboo canopies in a steel frame, painted white to match the whitewashed walls. The bamboo, and the gaps between the frames, creates beautiful patterns of shadow on the walls and floors.
The project clearly demonstrates the meaning behind a purified faith. Within all religions there is a struggle within ones soul to clearly articulate piousness and modesty. While working on this project the architects delcared “ When we were having to think of a place where the muslim prayer take place, as is customary happen at any place of care, we had to compare with this difficult dilemma. Designing a space that could accommodate the complex spiritual houses in this country. The choice was to not be given any form of worship but to create a space capable of hosting the prayer and meditation for all faiths. We had, of course, to deal with the Muslim religion that is the faith professed by the majority of Sudan and with the religious practice (washing, separation of men women) but we have dropped these rules in a estranging not make the dominant ” .