A modern mosque without minarets stirs controversy in Tehran

The Guardian | : When the Tehran authorities commissioned the construction of a mosque near the City theatre – one of Iranian capital’s most distinctive buildings – it was always going to be a tricky balancing act for the architects to design something unique that did not eclipse the adjacent structure.

The theatre, which was built before the 1979 revolution, has a spectacular tiled circular structure with external pillars and is the largest exclusive space in Iran for performing arts. The new mosque next door is a modern building that sits in harmony with it, sweeping from the ground towards the Qibla (the direction of Mecca), allowing sunlight through windows embedded in a wave-like structure.

But the Vali-e-Asr mosque, designed by the Iranian architects Reza Daneshmir and Catherine Spiridonoff, is stirring controversy in a country that hosts some of the world’s most glittering places of worship. Iranian hardliners are refusing to recognise it as a mosque, complaining that it does not have a minaret or proper dome, and that it is dwarfed by the theatre.

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