Given the confrontations faced by the Muslim community in Europe, it’s revealing to see several projects in the continent using an updated version of Islamic architecture to challenge cultural perceptions. In Córdoba, a former caliphate in the south of Spain, a project by Enero Arquitectura takes the traditional Arabic mashrabiyas and turns them into a second skin for a public building.
Córdoba, Spain –
During the centuries of Islamic command, the Iberian peninsula saw great artistic development throughout the Umayyad rule and Caliphate of Córdoba, with their seat in the latter namesake city. Today, the Andalusian spot preserves some outstanding examples of Moorish architecture, which even in times of friction for the Muslim community in Spain and Western Europe, serve as inspiration for non-Islamic contemporary architecture – just look to Mecanoo’s Palace of Justice, inspired by Córdoba’s Great Mosque.
This year, another public building in the city makes a nod to that heritage: the new Quirónsalud hospital, designed by Madrid-based Enero Arquitectura. When preparing the plot for construction, the team found an 11th-century necropolis underneath. Following the city’s archeological regulations informed the alignment of the two volumes above – but more than that, it also reinforced the use of Moorish references on the façades.
We see it as a tribute to the things that bring us together as opposed to something that separates us
The most visible element is the metal latticework that envelops the volumes like a second skin, a termic solution and directly points to the wooden mashrabiyas often found in traditional Arabic homes. Inside, these geometric units can also be seen in the common areas, such as the lobby, where a small atrium brings together not just shapes, but also materials and colours that recall the city’s intrinsic Islamic heritage.
And how do these very conspicuous references work percolate through the current social landscape of the city? ‘Europe lives under a constant threat that sometimes crystalizes into attacks that shouldn’t take place – but design, culture and the way of thinking of individuals go the other way,’ explained Enero’s Mario Saiz. ‘So, when a building such as this one points to Córdoba’s Islamic past, we see it more as a tribute to the things that bring us together as opposed to something that separates us.’
As we’ve covered before, Muslim communities in the West are using architecture to express their views of future self-perception. That a European city with an ingrained Islamic history is choosing to move forward by looking to this particular past is another sign that architecture can become a bridge in times of friction.