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Meet Zeynep Fadillioglu: the first woman to design a mosque in modern Turkey

/ Jun 04, 2013 8:50AM / Print / ()

Meet Zeynep Fadillioglu: the first woman to design a mosque ...

In 2009, there were more than 700 new mosques built in Turkey.

But only one was designed by a woman.

Zeynep Fadillioglu was the lead architect of the Sakirin Mosque in Istanbul.

Fadillioglu, who's run her own design company for 16 years, has spent most of her career designing restaurants and hotels.

Designing a mosque was a very different project, she told the Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network Conference in Istanbul on Monday.

"When you're designing a restaurant, you have your client, and you design for them. When working on a mosque... it's a very delicate subject. Your client is the donor, not the worshipper. But you have to think for the worshipper too.

"I'm from a Muslim background. I'm quite familiar with mosques. But I had to take great care all along the way. I had to discuss the subject with religious authorities, to make sure I wasn't making a mistake. I wanted the mosque to connect with and serve the people, and not to alienate them."

Until the mosque was finished, Fadillioglu kept a low profile. But once completed, she appeared on television to explain the artistic decisions she made.

"In the design, I used Islamic symbolism and Ottoman artefacts and designs, to link with each piece in the mosque... When I went to the authorities, I realised there is no banning for any sort, because the prophet said 'everywhere is a mosque'. As long as you don't insult or provoke, there's nothing that should stop you, as long as people understand what you're doing."

The mosque is a mix of old and new, blending modern materials like acrylic and resin with traditional Ottoman materials like carnation leaves.

Creating something that reflects the era was important to Fadillioglu.

"We haven't had anything new for the past 50 years. People who come to Turkey in the future will say, 'did anyone live in this age?'"

Since the mosque has opened, two other women have been commissioned by the Turkish government to design mosques.

"There's been large recognition of the fact that there is no ban on innovation, or on women working in Islam" Fadillioglu says. "There is nothing stopping them."

Myriam Robin travelled to Istanbul as a guest of Dell, which paid for her flights and accommodation.

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