It was a complete disaster. Black-spotty mold was growing on the walls. Florescent tube lights dangled loosely from the ceiling. Floor tiles were moist and easily peeling off like stickers. It was overwhelming and so was the stench which was a combination of dirt, moisture and thick air.
It was difficult to see the destination but the journey of creating a multi-purpose center was happening. A place for multiple purposes: to worship, to learn, to teach, to celebrate, to eat, to play and to socialize was truly needed.
The 2017, the Summer months brought an intense amount of rain to an old 1950s building. The collected pool of rainwater eventually fell through the flat roof destructing the multi-purpose/religious center.
The center hired an environmental service to remove any chemicals, mold and asbestos that may be in the space. I, then worked with my contractor to start the process of adding new floors, lights, and architectural details.
The floor: simple but ornate
After gutting out two layers — one being tiles and the other being engineered hardwood, the new tiles were quickly put in. The main gray tiles throughout the space was carefully selected: it had to be strong enough to withstand kids running, accidental food/dishes being spilled and the rolling wheels of the cafeteria tables. Another set of tiles was also considered to be used as a border. These border tiles were joyful, aesthetic and a pattern you would likely see in an alley in Morocco.
Lighting Inside and Out
Immediately, my first instinct when walking into the dark space was “let’s bring in natural light!” There were absolutely no windows! And children (okay, all humans) in my opinion, need natural light. The solution: add industrial strength garage doors with framed rows of translucent glass. The garage doors are now automatic and accessible to the outdoor courtyard. The daily rolling of the cafeteria tables from the courtyard (where they are stored) into the space is no longer a struggle.
Interior lighting is just as crucial and necessary. Gone are the flickering white-glared florescent tubes that are now replaced with long-lasting LED track lighting. Ambient lighting were sprinkled around the space with chandeliers that were imported from Spain. These chandeliers mimicked the geometric shapes one can easily find in centuries-old Islamic art. Under every single arch, a singular exposed light bulb simply dangles.
Architectural details that are functional yet attractive.
I had to disguise the hideous steel ceiling joists somehow. So I came up with the idea of wrapping each joist with wood paneling, staining it a natural color to imitate the look of reclaimed wood. I really wanted to add a touch of beauty you would see in a traditional mosque so I added arches onto the walls. Beneath each arch, was a built-in bookshelf that was meticulously measured and constructed. Inside each arch, a geometric and exotic pattern is stenciled by a local artist.
Even the front entrance was transformed in a sophisticated manner to hide the shoe-filled bookshelves. An arch was created out of steel and drywall, painted gray and then, stenciled.
The rollaway bookshelves have been stowed away and now simple black, custom built-in bookshelves take their place.
Finally, the prayer rugs were the finesse of the creative process. The rugs took a long time because they were being manufactured in Turkey plus the crazy weather conditions in the east coast delayed the shipping. I selected a bold, sapphire blue that the brought a fresh brilliance to the modern religious center.
All in all, this was one of the biggest projects I’ve done and I feel humble to know that I was trusted by the community to take this on.