When it comes to new designs, Shahed Saleem isn’t afraid to shake things up!
As an architect, researcher and lecturer living and working in East London, Shahed focuses on community architecture and places of worship.
Not content with lumping in a couple of minarets and being done with it, Shahed believes we can use mosque architecture to merge elements of British and Muslim identity, so he’s been speaking to Muslim communities and making harmonious designs that connect with both Islam and their surroundings.
He told Buzzfeed News, “For me, like many Muslims of diaspora communities who come from other countries and settled in this country, our culture is something we’re making new”. He adds: “We do have to generate our own architectural language which reflects our European Muslim identity.”
Shahed finds features already existing in a road or town and shapes his design around them in a way which feels modern and natural. For example, in his design of Masjid Alhikmah in Aberdeen, he added granite blocks to reflect a local tradition in the city, while still making sure the building is recognisable as a mosque through the use of ceramic stars handmade by designer Lubna Chowdhary.
At the moment, Shahed is writing a book on the history of the British mosque for English Heritage, which explores how mosques play a part in society as active community centres. Mosques aren’t just old buildings – they can have libraries, reading groups, food banks, and even gyms. The book also looks at the role of women in mosques.
The UK has about 1800 mosques now, compared to just 400 in 1990, so it makes sense that everyone’s been talking about the way mosques are designed.
We look forward to seeing how the British mosque style will adapt over the coming years!