The 26,000 sq.ft building sits on 7.74 acres of land and its design was inspired by and conceived with reference to the local Texas environment and the varied backgrounds of the Ismaili community, our history, and expressions of our faith. This Jamatkhana is meant to provide a physical context to inspire future generations while celebrating our faith, history, and the community where the building is situated.
Light is one of the primary elements that is used to explore, decorate, and define spaces. In fact, the lighting inside the main building is designed to be indirect, to eliminate glare and reduce the harshness of exposed bulbs and fixtures to all who enter, especially for prayer.
Additionally, design elements include purposeful use of durable materials to ensure longevity, as well as concern for the environment, by being energy efficient, low maintenance, and built for high-traffic usage while encouraging a sense of community.
The original undeveloped site was densely wooded with many species of hardwood trees, such as hickory, oak, holly, and elm, to name a few, as well as softwood trees like gum, pine, tallow, and others. There was also a rich variety of shrubs and undergrowth plants. The goal was to save and maintain as much of the wooded areas as possible.
Inspired by the idea to “build amongst the forest,” the landscape plan consists of maintaining large areas of native green spaces where the existing trees, shrubs, and undergrowth are protected and replenished from areas that were cleared. This was all done in order to maintain the natural environment.
Surrounding the building are large areas of protected and replenished forest that screen parking areas and provide a landscaped tunnel approach towards the two courtyards. Trees and plants were added to provide a start-up landscaped look to areas that were disturbed during construction while the reforestation takes place. New plantings will shape the edge of the forest along with the building that will minimize maintenance and biowaste. The newly planted greenery, landscape tunnel, and canopy screen will take five to ten years to grow and fill in.
The front courtyard and the surrounding area has hard and soft-surface spaces and a water fountain. It was designed as a gathering space, inviting social interaction, and providing an environment for celebrations. This space and nearby covered space in front of the main entrance are a feature in this region referred to as the Mission Style, originally brought from Spain, which was inspired from buildings used by Muslims there and in North Africa.
The main lobby is the hub for community interactions. It provides access to the different wings of the building, the prayer hall and social area, and educational areas, including the Early Childhood Development Center and Library.
The marble and light lenses in the niches, which are handmade, were both sourced from Turkey. Several of the tile areas are sourced locally, and some of the hallway tiles are from Italy.
Diverse samples selected from various backgrounds and expressions throughout the Islamic world were reinterpreted to provide continuity and to inspire modern creative forms for future generations. For example, the decorative geometric patterns were inspired by a common square-based pattern that has been used historically in Muslim architecture. This element is used throughout the building and is also its motif.
Additionally, the theme of five resonates throughout the building, representing the Panjtan Pak, the five key members of the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) family through Hazrat Ali, i.e. Prophet Muhammad, Hazrat Ali, Fatima, Hasan, and Imam Husayn. An example of this is the five light poles near the parking lot, and five windows in the sitting areas in the main lobby of the prayer hall building.
The design of the building also takes into consideration several aspects of historic Islamic architecture and uses modern processes and materials to create similar effects:
- In historic architecture metal-etched and perforated vessels and covers were utilized for holding light sources, such as candles and oil lamps. Here, modern processes were used to cut metal rendered in white for central perforated decorative light covers
- Similarly, historically, wood panels with carved patterns for decoration were used. Today, similar wood panels are used but with modern processes to cut patterns into the panels
- Structural sunscreens used in historical architecture are visible here through the sunscreen shading for the aluminum and glass curtain wall
- Carved plaster walls and ceiling patterns are represented in the niches and decorative cut ceiling tile in the Prayer Hall
- Decorative screens are represented in the ceiling screens, HVAC grilles, and skylights
- Plaster and masonry walls with light niches have been converted into wood niches and wood-paneled walls were created to illuminate seating areas
Additionally, there are a number of environmentally-conscious features within the building:
- To reduce heat and energy use, the construction includes:
- Additional insulation
- A white colored roof and building
- Large canopy overhangs
- Curtain walls, windows and skylights with insulated glass and thermal-break aluminum frames
- Decorative metal screens to shade the curtain wall
- The facility uses natural lighting for a majority of daytime use, however, when needed, the building utilizes energy-efficient technology including an energy efficient HVAC system and LED lighting
- Construction of the building includes locally-sourced materials, along with recyclable content to minimize landfills and the building’s carbon footprint
The Prayer Hall
Specific effort was made to remove any bright spots and have light fade as it gets closer to the spatial area where an individual prays. The prayer hall carpet is inspired by rainbow colors, furthering the theme of light in its prismatic form.
There are carved plaster walls, ceiling patterns, and complex geometric shapes and patterns that are common in Islamic architecture. They also convey a feeling of spaciousness, calmness, openness, and tranquility.
There is an intricate design on the ceiling. The rotated square inside itself is common in the Pamirs (Tajikistan). The rotated square on top of itself is common in the Northern Subcontinent, Persia, Turkey, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. The combination of these patterns was inspired from Syria and the Middle East. The screen above the skylight is influenced from Mughal architecture and the light fixture is inspired by lighting influences from the Swahili coast.
This area offers spaces creating a serene environment surrounded by lush greenery and a water element. Additional environmentally-friendly features of the site include:
- Saving part of the forest and reforestation by planting about 4,500 trees and plants for carbon capture. This is more than what was removed from the site in order to build the structure.
- Collecting rain on some parts of concrete pavement and directing it to replenish underground water flow to support existing forest, landscaping, and reforestation
- Collecting rainwater from the main building roof into two 5,000 gallon cisterns for irrigating landscaped areas
- Capability to store an additional 20,000 gallons of rain from the side building and drop off canopy roof for additional irrigating capacity
- Using tree canopy to shade the building from the sun
- Landscaping design that uses less potable water and does not need to be cut and trimmed regularly