Synagogue Church Mosque / Ağırbaş + Wienstroer

© Thomas Mayer

Architects: Ağırbaş Wienstroer, Architektur & Stadtplanung
Location: Bleckstraße, 45889 ,
Project Team: Frank Eittorf, Gülşen Bayrak, Doris Lischnewski
Project Year: 2010
Project Area: 160.0 sqm
Photographs: Thomas Mayer

In March 21 2010, two buildings were opened as a part of Ruhr 2010 culture capital in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. According to our (Agirbas/Wienstroer) proposal, a synagogue and a mosque as temporary buildings but of 1:1 scale were installed near Bleck Church which was built in 1735. These spaces are planned to be used between 2010 March and November. The required area was already available and the space was created in order to give it content. The aim of the Project is to bring together people of different origins by exhibitions, symposiums, concerts and children playing together. In spite of the small size of the buildings, this Project is a city sociology project for us.

© Thomas Mayer

Synagogue-Church-Mosque: Each of the heavenly religions has created their particular temples. Synagogue comes from portable Jewish temple (meeting tent); Roman catacombs led to Christian churches’ vaults and arches; Arabian Bedouin tents became Muslims’ minarets directed to heaven and mosques… The appearance of these temples is not only the indicator of the transformations of religious Culture, but also a decisive symbol of religious security in the habitats of people. Synagogues, churches and mosques determine world-wide city contexts.

© Thomas Mayer

Next to the oldest church of Gelsenkirchen, which has almost 1 million visitors a year, spaces are created in which people can enter and play games, although they are temporary. To the left of the church, the architectural sign of Jewish devotions (meeting tent/synagogue), and architectural sign of Muslim devotions (minaret/mosque) to the right. Towards the end of the Project, all three buildings are conjoined: an invitation to walk amongst faiths. What is at stake is a dialogue of epiphanies which can be lived and experienced. We want our experiences –imperfect they may be– to become experiences of the users of these spaces.

© Thomas Mayer

Architect moves all around the world, travels to the edges if needed to reflect his or her experiences. Architect sometimes uses stone, sometimes uses wood. The user should be able to ask the right questions when contemplating the house – this is the ideal condition. Here the matter is not form and figure. The important thing here is the longing that motivates us again and again, the question of what is right and what is wrong. This question bothered us all the way in the project. Sometimes I touch the colorful walls of a basilica and my hands becomes infinitely powerful, another time my eyes touch the calligraphies of a mosque and becomes unprecedently sharp, and when I look from one of the 12 windows of a synagogue, I become conscious of my own history. Twelve hours, twelve months, twelve tribes. A new question emerges in the light of history and incomplete histories; a question apparently not easy to answer: “How do we want to live together?”

© Thomas Mayer

Nevertheless, everything can be simple. But it is as if the more we solve, the more inaccessible the problem becomes. The majority who think they know everything do not provide space for a different thought any more. Is the world turning around itself or is it standing still? One of the houses heads far beyond the horizon, to the place where the first beams of the sun appear, precisely to east. The fact that it is a house of God, keeps the secret of life, the secret of the thing that gives everything their meaning. The other house heads to Mecca. Is not God omnipresent? This space must be clean; you must walk in it without shoes. The oldest element of it is the altar (mihrab); the second is the pulpit (mimber) which was added a couple of centuries later. The altar is intended to divinity, to the community with its steps, whereas the pulpit is intended to worldliness.

© Thomas Mayer

The houses are still untouched. They are as if playing hide and seek with the trees according to where you stand and look. The colors of these spaces in foliage ask the name, 99 different names or the unmentionable name. A pulsing light will shine when the night comes. With sharp contours revealing the exact geometrical shape of the building for one, with indistinct and diffuse beams which reveals only the main outlook for the other. Light never rests. It has never done that for thousands of years and will never do for nine months here. In the depth of the gazes asking questions and seeking answers, temporary appearances are trying to answer the question: “How do we want to live together?”

© Thomas Mayer

We usually trace the time seeing the things we want to see. Is it not that a mosque should have a dome? Where is the star of David in the synagogue? A questioning in depth, especially questioning ourselves is always very hard. One gets happier when choosing the easy way, since the alleged goal is achieved faster. Something important is omitted, maybe? Little mosaic pieces are waiting to be picked. Star of David, cross, crescent, minaret, pulpit and altar, twelve windows. When we place the pieces (in modern words, pixels, if you like), please not according to an accustomed pattern. Only then it becomes an effort to see with the others eyes. If you take it as an invitation, what else one can wish for?

© Thomas Mayer

Something more about the fragments, about the mosaic pieces: some likes the imaginary (trapezoid walls, a form without an end and a beginning), some likes the reality (square plan, stairs to heaven). I could not decide which one I am representing yet: realities or sensations? Are these really so much incompatible: east and west (orient and occident), humanist and religious, etc.? In fact, everything is so close that we only need to reach our arms in order to kiss the others palm. Now, it would be over-simplifying to say “we consciously used residual material which has traces of being used, in order to indicate the multiplicity of the society”. We decided on patchwork, because this is about the oldest of the temples, about developing, temporality and re-development.

© Thomas Mayer

After the buildings are removed from Ruhr area (TEMPORALITY), another project will begin (DEVELOPMENT), and they will be rebuilt in Istanbul (RE-DEVELOPMENT), another European kulture capital, after 2010 November. In Kınalı Island, Istanbul, where there has been no place for cultural activities for a long time, a library and an activity saloon will be created with the materials of these buildings. Kınalı Island is a cultural prototype of Istanbul, even of Turkey. The main aim on the island, which is a mosaic of different ethnicities, is to make everyone recognize their others and conjoining the adjacency of spaces with adjacency of minds through knowledge and common cultural activities.

© Thomas Mayer

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Synagogue Church Mosque / Ağırbaş + Wienstroer" 10 Jul 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 01 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=252697>

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