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Its history also highlights the relationship between architectural production and the cultural politics of identity.The mosque was designed for the use of Muslims in the New York City metropolitan area, who include high-profile, influential Muslim diplomats and others attached to the United Nations, consulates, and trade offices.This nostalgic community of Muslims was of a generation that, in the words of Preston, seeks "the stability and humanness embodied in vernacular and pre-modern architectures."In this context, the role of the architect is to bring back the past, the familiar; to make the users of the building feel at home; and to reinterpret its vocabulary in everyday language that can be easily understood.Yet the very architectural symbols that do this—minarets, domes, arches—have been co-opted throughout America in Shriners' halls, vaudeville theaters, restaurants and even gambling casinos, much to Muslims' regret, and similar architectural fantasies have turned up in Hollywood productions and in Disneylands.In South Charleston, West Virginia, William Preston, the non-Muslim architect who designed the mosque, says he was modeling it "after a famous Islamic house of worship, the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, which is larger than the Taj Mahal." Though the South Charleston mosque is geographically far, from its prototype, conversations with the architect, his clients, and many of the worshipers at the mosque make it clear that the final design does not disappoint them.
Of nearly 1000 mosques and Islamic centers in the United States surveyed in the mid-1990's, fewer than 100 had originally been designed to be mosques and, of those, the older ones had not been designed by architects.Turkish architect Talat Itil designed and built the striking Ottoman-style mosque in the cornfields of Ohio in 1983.Its 41-meter (135') Ottomanesque minarets and hemispherical 18-meter (60') dome are visible from the nearby highway, an exotic bit of Middle Eastern visual culture in an otherwise Midwestern environment.A number of mosques similar to the one in Harper Woods and Washington, varying in size and scale, were built in the 1980's.
Two other transplantations of traditional mosque architecture to an American site are the Islamic Centers near Toledo, Ohio, and in South Charleston, West Virginia.
Islam's first mosque, built in Madinah in 622, was a simple rectangular structure constructed of palm logs and adobe bricks.