Home Community Unusual Mosques: Sancaklar Mosque

Unusual Mosques: Sancaklar Mosque

The award-winning Sancaklar Mosque was built in Istanbul, Turkey by Emre Aolat architects, and was finished in 2012. In 2018, Emre Arolat Architecture was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects RIBA Award for International Excellence for their work on Sancaklar.

It has a very unusual 700-square meter structure, with stone walls to keep the busy highway out of the Mosque’s landscape. The building was designed for the Sancaklar family, who wanted to build a mosque overlooking Buyukcekmece Lake.

“Sancaklar Mosque aims to address the fundamental issues of designing a mosque by distancing itself from the current architectural discussions based on form and focusing solely on the essence of religious space,” said the architects.

Unlike the usual Ottoman style architecture mosques follow in Turkey, the Sancaklar mosque has no predefined form. As such, prayer can be done anywhere throughout. The mosque aimed to free itself from cultural burdens and redefine what we know a mosque to be.

On approach to the mosque, the inscription that is depicted clarifies that this is a place for praying. The cascades following the natural slope turn into steps as one moves through the landscape and down the hill. This leads to the entrance space at the lower level.

The tea house, communal space and the library just across the mosque enrich the gathering feature of this open space. The prayer hall can be reached directly from this level. It is a simple cave-like space that becomes a dramatic and awe-inspiring place to pray and be alone with God.

The interior is simple where materials put forward themselves as they are, free from coverings and redundancies. The walls and the ceiling strengthen the feeling of purification and humbleness. The space may be defined as a meditation and thinking space.


The only decoration is what appears to be daylight that seeps through the Qiblah wall and changes throughout the day. The directionality of the prayer area is improved by the slits and cracks along this wall.

The Arabic letter و on the reflected black wall of infinity is a highly unique feature. The complex comprises the imam’s residence, which he can access immediately from the ablution hall, as well as the nearby facilities.

The structure perfectly mimics the topography and peacefully restores the shape of the earth. Natural insulation against heat absorption and loss is provided by this submerged feature and the green roof above.

The majority of the landscaping materials are low-maintenance, rural flora that blends nicely with the surrounding plains. All of these features reduce the need for extra water and energy.

“The building blends in completely with the topography and the outside world is left behind as one moves through the landscape, down the hill and in between the walls to enter the mosque,” said the team. “The project constantly plays off of the tension between manmade and natural.”

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