Abdel Wahed El Wakil is one of the most influential architects in Islamic architecture. His deep knowledge of Islamic architecture has reawakened an awareness of the value of traditional Islamic heritage. He maintained a deep commitment to the architecture for the poor.
Abdel Wahed El Wakil was born in Cairo, Egypt on 7th August, 1943. He graduated from Ain-Shams University in Cairo, Egypt in the year 1965. During 1965 to 1970, he taught at the Department of Architecture while studying and working with his mentor Hassan Fathy who was a renowned advocate of indigenous architecture.
Since year 1972, He contributed into his own practice, designing and contributing to some of the most remarkable buildings, palaces and mosques. He established his design studios in Cairo, Jeddah and Ashford in Kent. He was based in Miami, Florida since 1993. Abdel Wahed acted as a consultant to UNESCO and as an advisor to the Ministry of Tourism in Egypt in 1972.
In a skillful manner, his designs brought together various elements of traditional architecture such as arches, domes, vaults and wooden lanterns in new buildings. His work is largely characterized by a quest for quality and meticulous attention to detail.
His mentor Hassan Fathy once said, “When the full power of human imagination is backed by the weight of a living tradition, the resulting work of art is much greater than any that an artist can achieve when he has no tradition in which to work or when he willfully abandons his tradition.”
El Wakil’s Low Cost Housing
El Wakil focused on the idea of vernacular, low cost housing in the Middle East. He emphasized that low cost vernacular housing may be re-developed when people would look again to traditional architecture and would avoid the blind acceptance of widespread Western standards.
El Wakil’s Religious Buildings
Abdel Wahed El Wakil designed many mosques in Saudi Arabia. Although, they are all different in area and form, yet they share a number of elements and characteristics from architectural heritage of the Islamic world. Construction technologies and use of materials are similar in all these mosques. Structure is based on load bearing brick walls, domes, and vaults. Hollow baked bricks are laid together with mortar. Most of the surfaces are covered with white plaster but in some cases, they are cladded with granite. Interior of the domes and vaults is largely left exposed but is coated with a layer of brown paint only. Use of reinforced concrete is limited to some particular elements such as foundations, lintels and flat roof.
Miqat Mosque Complex, Madinah, Saudi Arabia
A mosque for five thousand worshippers, shops, annexes, walkways and landscaping area lie in the complex. A low profile building surrounds a high profile mosque building in a landscaped courtyard. Whole complex is influenced by local traditional elements. It was built in 1987.
Corniche Mosque, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Corniche Mosque is built near Red Sea extracting the traditional elements from Islamic architecture, but it has been transformed to serve contemporary objectives. The whole structure is built by bricks which are coated with plaster. Bricks on the interior of the dome are left exposed and painted dark bronze. Mosque comprises of a prayer hall, mihrab projecting outwards, entrance portal covered by a vault and octagonal minaret with a square base. It was built in 1986.
Architect was commended “for the effort to compose formal elements in ways that bespeak the present and at the same time reflect the luminous past of Islamic societies.”
Island Mosque, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Island Mosque lies on an artificial manmade island near Corniche in Jeddah. Island is connected to the mainland by a narrow bridge. Its design is inspired by the architectural style of Mamluk period. There is a rectangular prayer chamber flanked by a courtyard. Aisles are surrounding the prayer hall on three sides and a dome lies on top supported on an octagonal drum. The square minaret has a smaller dome and a balcony with a wooden railing. It was constructed in 1986.
Qubah Mosque, Madinah, Saudi Arabia
Qubah Mosque lies on the site where Prophet Muhammad (SAW) built the first mosque after migrating from Madinah. Architect attempted to incorporate the older structure into the design initially but mosque was completely replaced with a new structure on the decision of the client. Mosque complex consists of a rectangular prayer chamber, courtyard, women’s prayer area, ablution facilities, offices, shops, library and residential areas. Main prayer hall is characterized by six large domes. There are four minarets on the corners of the mosque building. Each minaret has an octagonal shaft resting on a square base. Shaft takes the circular form as it approaches the top. Two balconies rest on muqarnas vaults on each minaret. The complex was built in 1986.
Qiblatain Mosque or Masjid al-Qiblatayn, Madinah, Saudi Arabia
Qiblatain Mosque was built in 1987 in Madinah. Site of the mosque carries a significant value to Muslim worshippers praying here who were said to shift the direction of prayer from qibla in Jerusalem to that in Mecca with Allah’s will. Design and detailing of the mosque are inspired by the historical architecture. It can accommodate 2000 worshippers. Prayer hall is characterized by two minarets and two large domes establishing an axis in the direction of Mecca. Main dome is resting on a drum with windows to allow light inside the hall. Other dome is connected to the main dome by a cross vault to signify the change in direction from one qibla direction to the other.