Although I have visited many mosques around the world (Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia etc…) I haven’t attended any other mosque on a regular basis within the UK other than that of the small purpose built mosque that I have grown up attending located in Milton Keynes (for an East African community originally from India). Therefore, when visiting the Central Mosque, I was not entirely sure what to expect, as the idea of designing a place of worship, based on accommodating for a variety of diverse backgrounds is fairly alien to me. I was intrigued to find that the layout is more or less the same as the MK mosque; the most significant space,the prayer hall leads onto additional social/service spaces. The entrance points for the men and women are of course separate, leading onto each genders segregated spaces for worship. The segregation of the genders is probably the most interesting aspect, as when comparing the sizes of the male zones and female zones, it is evident that the Male capacity is almost triple than that of the women.
As the site visit overlapped with the afternoon prayers (Dhohar), we were able to witness the capacity the prayer halls could accommodate for general daily prayers. Between the Adhan and Iqama (calls to prayers) roughly 2 and a half prayer lines were taken up by male worshippers. Each prayer line allows space for 120-150 people (there are 26 rows in total). However, the in the female gallery, there were no worshippers for the afternoon prayer. Of course, it is important to consider that there are days (Eids) where the female galleries must be able to accommodate large capacities, therefore, when designing the proposal a key point to consider is flexibility. Primarily, it is clear that the mosque must accommodate for more men, but must also be flexible enough to switch easily when there is an overflow of women.
With reference to the location, there are 2 churches within very close proximity to the mosque, one of which has a large mass service held on a Thursday afternoon, the same times as the Dhohar prayer. Traffic and influx of people did not seem to be an issue at this time, however, some important events for both Islam and Christianity may clash during the year and with the prospect of a new Tesco to be developed to the West of the site, inevitably means that access routes must respond efficiently. Situated directly parallel to Belgrave Middleway, means that these key event days will create large traffic blocks and therefore, perhaps the encouragement to use public transport is something that need to be considered in order to relieve the pressures at these points.