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BUILDING PROFILES magazine-april 2003

Built in Good Faith

The Bait-ul-Futuh Mosque in Morden, Surrey will, on completion due in the summer of 2003, become the largest purpose built mosque in the United Kingdom and one of the largest in West Europe.

With over 2500m2 of gross internal area, it will form the centrepiece for the new national headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK, the longest established Muslim organisation in the most remarkable gems of South West London - the London Mosque in Southfields which was built in 1924 and was itself the first mosque in London and stands as an extraordinarily conspicuous piece of Islamic architecture in one of the most fashionable parts of London. However, the site on which the Bait-ul-Futuh Mosque is being built is 5.2 acres in total and the site includes the existing main building and other ancillary buildings. The site will be mixed use in the widest sense of the word - offices, sports hall facilities, gymnasium, libraries, storage facilities, television studios to name but a few. The site lies between Morden South main the line station and the London Underground Depot, which has caused particular problems, as Mr. Nasser Khan, the Project Director for the client explains:

"The site is narrow, which has caused us difficulties in movement during construction. Our neighbours have been very understanding whilst works have continued and I must say we have received active support for the various modifications we have had to undertake."

The site was a former Express Dairy bottling plant and the local Council, Merton LBC, were supportive of the development but were forced to improve rather restrictive conditions on the planning permission due to local unease at the development, fuelled by controversial campaigns by the British National Party. However the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association's logo at the entrance of the site "Love for All Hatred for None" has won over the hearts of the local community.

"The situation has completely reversed," said Mr. Khan, who found the site in 1996. "Through a combination of education, openness and a remarkable skyline, the local residents are as enthusiastic as we are to see the final result."

The sheer presence of the development is breathtaking. One only needs to view the Mosque from the approaching road to be struck by the marble cladding, steel dome and former 36m chimney of the express dairy main plant, which now acts as a minaret. However, it is not just the size that is the most interesting part of this development. It is the fusion of cultures that the design and construction brings. Through a four stage tendering process, the Bait-ul-Futuh Mosque Committee appointed to oversee the construction of the Mosque, decided to appoint Sutton Griffin & Morgan, based in Newbury, to act as Project Architects. Their lead Architect, Mr Patrick Griffin, explains his excitement at the appointment:

"This was, and continues to be, undoubtedly one of the most challenging and exciting projects of my career to date."

"As I had never been involved in the construction of a Mosque, I immediately set upon a field of study that I had never been called upon to enter. My "mission of discovery" took me to Mosques in Canada and the United States, as well as a study of the more traditional places of worship in the Middle East and South Asia."

The Mosque is attempting to combine Western, particularly British, architecture with the traditional Eastern cultural influence that so characterise Islamic art.

"Whilst you will probably see more of the "West" in this building at the moment, it is clearly some months away from completion and we already have plans in the finishes to add the "Eastern" element to this Mosques" adds Mr Khan.

The Principal Contractor is Cosmur Construction. For them too, this is a major development and not the usual brief. Based in central London, Cosmur possess over twenty-eight years experience in private and public sector new build and refurbishment contracts. Working on buildings varying from hospitals to tower blocks, mosques to sports halls; Cosmur's enviable track record is based on expertise, experience and friendly service. And all these qualities and many more make Cosmur more than suitable for this scheme. Cosmur have enjoyed a period of controlled growth in recent years but at the same time has managed to maintain its friendly and co-operatice attitude. The success of this approach is demonstrated, not only by the fact that the vast majority of contracts are repeat business such as this one, but also by their very high staff retention levels.

"The size of the site has caused logistical difficulties", states Richard Birkett, Cosmur's Project Manager. "However, the unusual features of the project have certainly made this an exciting project."

"One small example was solving the problem of allowing natural light into the ladies prayer hall situated on the lower ground floor, whilst not causing a breach of purdah by people being able to look in and also maintaining structural integrity. We decided to use Kalwall, a structural wall from USA, which allowed us to resolve the problem in hand. Mr Khan relates his idea to establish a covered walkway around the Mosque where worshippers would enter from the car park before entering the Mosque building proper.

It was in response to the fact that the vehicular access to the car park is from a roadway adjacent to the Mosque and is fairly narrow. With the importance of having separate entrances for men and women,

Baitul Futuh,
181 London Road
Morden, Surrey SM4 5PT,
United Kingdom
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