Reconstruction and rehabilitation of the AlNouri Complex in Mossul
The project site will be the main urban breathing space. A large public space, a breathing space, federative and original, peaceful and lively, intimate and open, sometimes a place of meditation, sometimes an agora.
The mosque as the epicentre of unity
We begin with the interior under the dome, in the heart of the prayer hall where octagonal pillars with their horseshoe arches are still standing. These octagonal pillars with their finely chiselled capitals constitute the DNA of our project. From there, the reconstruction of the Al-Nuri mosque unfolds in concentric waves: first the large rectangle of the prayer hall, the ceilings above the arches, the four minarets, the three facades to the south, east and west, and then the north facade which becomes a portico. This northern portico, designed in a refined and timeless language, generates the large central courtyard housing the ablutions pavilion. This large courtyard is in dialogue with the other courtyards, delimited by solid porticoes, opening onto secure, peaceful spaces, conducive to the various activities of the community, embellished with trees, plants and water, sources of freshness and life.
A plural enclosed garden, hosting a world in motion, in a continuous cycle
the project is made up of a juxtaposition of delimited and interconnected spaces. The composition of the enclosed garden forms alternating sequences of light and shadow.
A succession of urban rooms of different natures and schema, interior or open to the sky, are linked by galleries on the ground, or are suspended.
The thickness of the enclosure Is partially expanded, offering a programme to serve the city, to connect the complex to urban uses and invite dialogue with the city.
There are garden rooms, a water garden, a garden of fragrances, a mausoleum garden, hanging gardens, garden lounges; there are forecourt rooms, the large forecourt of the schools, the quiet forecourt of the mosque for outdoor prayers, the small forecourt of the minaret; there are school rooms, the secondary school to the north and the school of architecture to the south; and above all, there is the mosque, the masterpiece of the enclosed garden.
The design follows a low-tech logic by dealing with the cycle of sun and shade, with wind, with temperature and humidity, with the mass of the layers.
Mosul rises from its ashes. The debris are crushed, mixed and reshaped to form the matrix of a new material, a concrete that draws its strength and identity from the rubble of the past.
The northern façade is designed to open widely onto the prayer space and establish a continuity between the inside and the outside.
We propose to rebuild the southern, eastern and western facades of the mosque in local limestone. The sobriety of the new envelope will make it possible to read the main elements of the disappeared facades.
The four minarets are rebuilt in a new design, in the stylistic continuation of the contemporary roof. With the new minarets, we improve the quality of the atmosphere and comfort. To refresh the interior of the mosque, the four square turrets are both minarets and thermal chimneys. Their simple form is derived from the ancient wind towers found in the Middle East. Their facade is composed of a gradient mix of solid and perforated bricks, combined with a progressive presence of small brass plates, mostly visible in the upper part, under the crown.
The roof of the prayer hall before the destruction was flat, opaque and weighty. It was redone during the 20th century. As an extension of the historic and reconstructed pillars, contemporary posts made of site concrete support a thick ceiling composed of a series of deep skylights from which natural light penetrates through lateral cracks, is reflected on curved vertical walls and gently irrigates the space. It reinforces the spiritual dimension and provides slenderness and breathability to the volumes of the prayer room.
Under the central dome, the mihrab is surrounded by the minbar on the right and the Qur'an reading desk on the left. The upper part of the dome houses a light installation. A hundred or so suspended brass plates sparkle and cast their shadows on the underside of the dome.
Al Nuri Complex
The reconstruction of Mosul, a city that has been battered, must be carried out according to a rigorous and controlled process without ever forgetting the human factor and the role of the citizens in the established process, requiring the reappropriation of intimate and collective territories.
The new construction of the mosque and its extension carries with it the hope of a rebirth, of a gentle reconquest. The project has a universal scope and must be a space for all and in the image of Mosul, a symbol of cultural, religious and ethnic diversity; a city at the crossroads of the world’s main historical trade routes; a city characterised by a cosmopolitanism specific to this Mesopotamian region.
A breathing space in the heart of the city
The project site will be the main urban breathing space.
The project is a large public space, a breathing space, federative and original, peaceful and lively, intimate and open, sometimes a place of meditation, sometimes an agora.
A plural enclosed garden
The project borrows a specific typology from the Mesopotamian region, the enclosed garden. Historically, these are places where the spirit rises, where the built material is at one with the elements such as water, vegetation, shade and perfumes: havens of inhabited peace, timeless places of meditation and repose.
The enclosed garden hosts a world in motion, in a continuous cycle. The sustainable vision for the Al Nouri mosque complex seeks to inscribe it in the multiple cycles of life, in local, continuous and dynamic loops of materials, flows and atmospheres.
The site is delimited by a peripheral enclosure whose form and content vary according to the programmes and their relationship to the city. We wish to partially expand the thickness of the enclosure by offering a programme to serve the city, to connect the complex to urban uses and invite dialogue with the city.
Inside, the project is made up of a juxtaposition of delimited and interconnected spaces that we refer to as ‘rooms’. The composition of the enclosure forms alternating sequences of light and shadow. A succession of rooms of different natures and schema, interior or open to the sky, are linked by galleries on the ground, or are suspended.
Each room contains a use, a landscape, a singular atmosphere. There are garden rooms, a compound garden, a luxuriant garden, hanging gardens, garden lounges; there are forecourt rooms, the large forecourt of the schools, the quiet forecourt of the mosque for outdoor prayers, the small forecourt of the minaret; there are school rooms, the secondary school to the north and the school of architecture to the south; there is a mausoleum room; and above all, there is the mosque, the masterpiece of the enclosed garden.
Mosul rises from its ashes
The whole minerality of the superstructure (the frameworks, the floors, the roofs and the vertical masonry walls) is made of the same material.
The debris are crushed, mixed and reshaped to form the matrix of a new material, a concrete that draws its strength and identity from the rubble of the past. The material can be cast in situ, reinforced for structural purposes or moulded into bricks that can be handled and assembled manually. Thus, by recycling the debris, the mosque is reborn from its ruins. Waste becomes resource, contributing to a living, unbroken cycle of material.
The cycle of days and seasons
The Al Nouri mosque is a place that comes alive at all hours of the day and at all times of the year. To accommodate this changing life, it too must be alive, animated, in the atmospheres it creates: it must adapt to the changing external conditions to offer evolving spaces that are comfortable. In Mosul, the continental climate creates hot, dry summers and fairly cold winters. The Al Nouri mosque follows a low-tech logic by dealing with the cycle of sun and shade, with wind, with temperature and humidity, with the mass of the layers.
In winter, the sun in Mosul is lower (30°), and temperatures are colder. The mosque therefore seeks to capture the sun's rays to offer warmer atmospheres to Mosul's inhabitants. The sunshades are retracted, the roofs are folded back, and the buildings open up to the sun's rays.
On the hottest days, the wide galleries, the stretched canvases of the Summer Prayer Hall and the shaded roofs create a thread of shade that allows people to cross the site sheltered from the sun's rays, almost vertically (76°). The gardens, ponds and gutters create humid and shaded microclimates where everyone can take refuge, like little oases in the city. The openings of the buildings are protected from the sun by mashrabiya, while remaining open to the north-west winds. The four minarets of the Prayer Hall act as wind towers.
On summer nights, the mosque opens up to the cooler sky to let out the heat of the day. The canvases of the Summer Prayer Hall are folded back, and the terraces and hanging gardens are made accessible to give the people of Mosul access to the stars and the night.
At dawn, the rising sun, the dew on the leaves, the whispering of men, the cry of children, the scent of honeysuckle, a voice here, a song there… the light returns.
Reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Al Nouri Complex
Projectiles, lead architect
Semper Architectes, heritage architect
Setec Ingénierie, all trade engineer
Franck Boutté Consultants (FBC), Environmental design and engineer
Concepto, light designer