LJUBLJANA (SI) - With a modest competition-winning design by Bevk Perović, the arrival of the first mosque in Slovenia's capital city is one step closer.
After more than 40 years of discussion about the possible construction of a mosque in the Slovenian capital, the realization of this is finally in sight. Ljubljana is thus far one of the few European capitals without an Islamic prayer house, while the country has a Muslim community of nearly 50,000 souls (2.5% of the population). The majority of the Slovenian Muslims are Bosnians who had already come to Slovenia during the Yugoslavian period, in the 1960s and '70s. For important Islamic holidays they currently use the sports complex Hala Tivoli (Tivoli Hall). Remarkably, when the name of this complex is spelled backwards, it reads 'I lov it, Alah'– this is also the only association the building has with Islam, where usually basketball games and pop and hard rock concerts are organized.
Over the past four decades, several potential building sites at various locations in the capital passed review. With the support of the mayor of Ljubljana, Zoran Jankovic, the Muslim community recently purchased a centrally located plot of less than 12,000 m2 on the north side of the centre in the Bežigrad district. Situated there currently is a somewhat desolate and partly abandoned industrial site wedged between railways, a railway museum and the Parmova street.Bevk Perović architects
are the winners of an open, anonymous international competition held in 2011 by the Islamic community in Slovenia, in partnership with the City of Ljubljana. They decided to elevate the entire site using a built base in which sports facilities and the 450 required parking spaces are placed. Because of this the current 'island' character of the location is strengthened. The upper deck is designed as a partially planted square and lined with a thousand white dots, made of round marble plates. The different sections, such as a school, restaurant, offices and apartments, are in loose concrete volumes on the deck, around the centrally located mosque. The latter has the shape of a 'cube' of 32 × 32 metres in plan and 24 metres high, and consists of a latticework of steel plates. From the ceiling hangs a blue dome of fabric, a material which has a long tradition in Islamic architecture, such as the brocaded silk kiswah
, the cloth covering the sacred cube (Kaaba
) in Mecca. The freestanding, 40-metre-high minaret, decorated with the same white dots as on the ground, seems to rise from within the earth, and its resemblance to a chimney more precisely refers to the industrial history of the place.
Of a total of 44 competition entries, sixteen plans were made by foreign design firms, mostly from the former southern Yugoslavian republics. It is striking that eventually all six awarded prizes went to Slovenian architects. According to the organizers of the contest, this is purely coincidental. The Slovenian architect Robert Dolinar, who together with Kombinat architects also submitted a design, which received an honourable mention, has a different explanation. According to him, foreign agencies designed more traditional mosques, which were less adapted to the Slovenian context. The understated design of Bevk Perović with its hidden dome, on the other hand, plays well to the mixed feelings and resistance that many people have against the arrival of the mosque.
Before construction can now effectively begin, the Muslim community must first amass the required construction budget, for which it also looks to the Arab Gulf states in the meantime.
April | 2012 | Slovenia | Emiel Lamers