Saleem’s design of the inaugural Ramadan Pavilion responds to the first mosque-like structure in Britain, built by architect Sir William Chambers at Kew Gardens in the 18th Century. His new installation evokes an abstracted mosque for the 21st century, just as the first purpose-built mosque at Kew Gardens represented an exoticised other to the European mind.
The design of the Ramadan Pavilion draws inspiration to the V&A’s collection of prints and photographs of mosques and other examples of Islamic architectural design, as well as the architecture of mosques in Britain since the 1960s. The brightly coloured pavilion will take the form of a modern mosque which showcases the dynamic history and evolution of the mosque in Britain and explores themes of worship, belonging and identity. The architecture of the mosque is recombined to create a hybrid composition of parts, held together by new and emerging notions of identity, history and belonging. The design reflects the way that British mosques have been built by their communities, where they reference various traditions of Islamic history through architectural symbols.
The first event of the festival begins with the Welcome Ramadan Conference on Sunday 5 March at the V&A, inviting keynote speakers, scholars, experts, community organisations and the wider public. The themes covered will include spirituality, charity and halal spending, faith and belonging, and culture. The conference will also host the official opening of the inaugural Ramadan Pavilion on a day celebrating the arrival of Ramadan and the contributions made by Muslims during this blessed month to wider British society.