The Mosque

Al Andalus Library and Community Center

In order to ascribe greater realism to Mosque Alert, Silk Road Rising selected a real-life location in Naperville, Illinois as the site for Jamil Khoury’s imagined Al Andalus Library and Community Center—the proposed mosque at the center of the play’s conflict. In designing this fictive mosque, Silk Road Rising enlisted the support of acclaimed architect Christopher McCoy. Based in Lexington, Kentucky, McCoy has extensive experience designing mosques and working closely with county and municipal zoning boards. The drawing above, as well as the 360 degree digital rendering below, represent McCoy’s conception of how Al Andalus would appear if and when building permits are approved.  

McCoy offered his consultation and design services to the project entirely pro bono. Silk Road Rising and playwright Jamil Khoury wish to thank him for his tremendous generosity and unwavering support.   

To learn more about Christopher McCoy and his company, McCoy Architects LLC, visit:    www.mccoyarchitects.com

Old Nichols Library

Did you know that Mosque Alert’s “beloved local landmark” pending city approval for conversion into a mosque is an actual structure in Naperville, Illinois? Standing at 110 South Washington Street, this elegant, German-inspired building opened its doors on September 22, 1898 (the non-descript annex to its south was added in 1961) and served as Naperville’s public library until the torch passed to the new Nichols Library in 1986. Christopher McCoy’s sleek, modern design of the hypothetical Al Andalus Library and Community Center finds the Old Nichols Library fully restored, the existing annex razed, and a whole new annex constructed in its place. As the play informs us, this complex will be “a modern, eco-friendly, state-of-the-art prayer hall,” adhering to principles of sustainability, and earning Al Andalus the distinction of being an environmentally responsible “green mosque.”

Statement from architect christopher mccoy

On behalf of McCoy Architects LLC, it was an honor and a privilege to assist Silk Road Rising in bringing to life Mosque Alert, a poignant and thought-provoking examination of the challenges Muslim Americans often face when attempting to design and construct houses of worship. In designing the fictional Al Andalus Library and Community Center, we drew on our extensive history of helping mosques navigate public zoning hearings, sharing these experiences with the playwright, Jamil Khoury, and his team. Silk Road Rising, in turn, incorporated our designs in creative and inspiring ways.

In my experience, mosque design projects tend to center on building new, standalone buildings from the ground up. This project presented a unique challenge in that the fictional mosque in question would feature both an addition and adaptive reuse of an historic downtown structure. When Jamil reached out to me with this project, I jumped at the rare and refreshing architectural challenges it presented.

The Al Andalus Library and Community Center was designed, first and foremost, as a modern reinterpretation of a traditional mosque. The only obvious elements of a mosque to be seen are its crescent moon and dome. But this dome is a smaller, lower-profile section of the larger sphere, preventing it from overpowering the grandeur of the extant library. Furthermore, given the limited size of the property, we chose to divide the Center into two levels: (1) the ground floor, which contains the entrances, lobby, restrooms, and wudu (or ablution spaces); and (2) the musullah (or prayer space) on the upper level, which is covered almost entirely by the dome—symbolic of the all-encompassing, all-accommodating love of God.

This two-level massing is intended to complement and balance out the existing library. Many of the old structure’s materials are reused in new and unique ways. For instance, wide openings characterize the entrance and upper areas around the musullah, while other smaller, more traditional openings allow for a sympathetic coexistence with the original library. Likewise, the design of the existing architecture is adapted into geometric patterns on the building’s exterior to achieve a harmonious balance with the original structure, as well as a distinctly Islamic design.

Directly between the masjid and library sits the entrance to the Community Hall, which serves as a buffer for the two sides. Visitors can thus find the Community Hall (and access the back patio and side park) without interfering with mosque traffic. Due to limited funding, very few U.S. mosques feature such a dawah (or outreach center), making this Community Hall a particularly treasured aspect of the project. All too often mosques are accused of not “reaching out” to demonstrate “how Islam is a religion of peace.” By cultivating a space open to persons of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, we make this truth obvious and implicit by design.

I, along with McCoy Architects LLC, hope that our design will continue to provide Mosque Alert actors with a tangible visualization on which to base their performances, and will cultivate new perspectives in audiences all across the nation. Mosques continue to face unjust backlash when attempting to build in North America, but by telling this story, and by providing an architectural example of cross-cultural symbiosis, we hope our work will inspire hearts and minds everywhere to be changed.