Skidmore, Owings and Merrill
Design and history
Plans for a large Islamic center in New York were originally drawn up in the late 1960s as the first cultural center occupied a location at 1 Riverside Drive by 72nd Street. The first Islamic Center started functioning on a small scale from a modest townhouse at that address. However, the board of trustees later aspired to build a new larger center in a way suiting its prestigious position in the community, and to be one of the landmarks of New York City. Later, an overall project comprising a mosque, a school, a library, a museum, and a lecture hall, were planned out. After years of delays which included raising funds from Muslim countries, a prolonged process of relocating tenants, and the eventual demolition of the buildings on the site; construction of the Islamic Cultural Center began in October 1984.
Construction of the associated mosque began on May 28, 1987, the day which corresponded to the end of Ramadan. The cornerstone of the minaret was laid on September 26, 1988.
Construction was delayed during the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait and the First Gulf War. The mosque opened on April 15, 1991, for the feast of Eid ul-Fitr. In the end, more than 46 Muslim countries made contributions toward the $17 million construction cost of the mosque.
Today, like most mosques, the mosque at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York is oriented toward Mecca at a heading of 58°. Consequently, the building is rotated 29° from Manhattan's north-south street grid, which in turn is rotated 29° from due north-south. The precise calculation of the direction from New York to Mecca was based on the great circle that produces the shortest distance between the two cities. As with many mosques, the direction of Mecca is marked inside by a niche on the wall, known as the mihrab.[failed verification] Placed in the center of the large room, the mihrab is ornamented with a large design. Additionally, next to the mihrab is the minbar, which is a staircase from which the imam leads prayer.
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