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Venice Biennale 2021 Three British Mosques

The 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale explores the way in which cultures collide: how we blend, merge, adapt. The history of the mosque in Britain embodies this process in the way it incrementally reshapes space and the urban fabric with its own language. Any group of people can start a mosque, simply by establishing congregational worship in any space they designate as being for prayer. Most mosques have been created through the adaptation of existing buildings, which range from houses, shops, cinemas, pubs and other former places of worship. It is an organic process of architectural development, highly responsive to the immediate circumstances of the congregation. These mosques are in a continuous state of flux, as the community grows and its needs change, the buildings are continuously adapted to meet these changes. Grass-rooted, designed and in many cases built by its users, the mosque has generated an entirely new architecture for Britain.

Curated by Chris Turner (V&A), Ella Kilgallon (V&A) and Shahed Saleem (Architect), The exhibition Three British Mosques uses different forms of reproduction to articulate an under-represented aspect of Britain’s religious heritage, the self-built mosque. Through the study of three mosques in London; Brick Lane Mosque (built as a French Huguenot church), Old Kent Road Mosque (a former pub) and Harrow Mosque (a converted terrace house), the installation represents the historical layering and adaptations of each mosque. Key parts of each mosque are replicated as 1-2-1 copies visually tying together the fragments of the mosques, suggesting a narrative thread interlinking them. The 1-2-1 fragments are of significant parts of the mosques that have been inserted or grafted into their existing buildings to create this new hybrid architecture.