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The First Woman Known to Design a Mosque

Zeynep Fadillioglu is Turkey’s interior design star.

Şakirin Mosque in Istanbul

Turkey is home to more than 82,600 mosques and they’re all designed by men—except one, the Şakirin mosque in Istanbul, co-created by 59-year old Turkish interior designer Zeynep Fadillioglu, perhaps the first woman ever to design a mosque. The mosque, the exterior of which was designed by architect Husrev Tayla, features a 130-foot diameter dome and iron and glass facades. Fadillioglu’s interior designs of the mosque reveal a significant awareness of the women’s spaces—in the Şakirin mosque, the women’s section equals the men’s in both size and ornamentation. “I positioned them on the upper balcony, because during prayer the women must be behind the men," she told CNN. "But I also decided to make the balcony level one of the most beautiful areas, with the chandelier crystal droplets just in front, and where you can see the mihrab [an alcove pointing towards Mecca] from the best angle." Fadillioglu also enlisted the skills of other woman artists, like Nahide Buyukkaymakci, whose blown-glass rain drops hang from the chandelier at the Şakirin mosque.


Since the Şakirin mosque opened in 2009, she’s helmed two other mosque design projects in Qatar, produced designs for sites in London and New York, and designed her own furniture line. This week, Fadillioglu spoke with designboom about her design philosophy and legacy as the first woman to design a mosque in Turkey. She says:

“The founding stones of my approach to any project remain the same: timelessness, open-mindedness, love of color, layers of textures, and architectural features. My work reflects a modern understanding of traditional values. Using my hometown Istanbul as the main part of my inspiration, in my designs I am trying to combine eastern and western aesthetics and embrace the rich heritage of the Ottomans to produce works that have a local feel and a universal appeal.”

Fadillioglu also tells designboom that being the first woman to design a mosque has exposed her to harsh and often gendered criticism. “I was criticized by some Turkish people who believed that they could have done better, and I believe were jealous that this project wasn’t commissioned to them,” she says. “The praise came from worshipers from all over the country, international visitors and the press from all around the world. Today, the ‘Şakirin mosque’ belongs to the ‘must sees’ of Istanbul.”

Read the rest of the interview here.

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