Jennifer Mack, Post-Doc, Institute for Housing and Urban Research, Uppsala University

Form follows Faith: Architects, Expertise, and Swedish Mosques

In 2007, the city of Stockholm initiated the so-called Järva Lift in its northern suburbs. Loosely, the project seeks to improve the negative reputation of neighborhoods there, constructed during the state-sponsored Million Program (1965-1974). These areas convey a mid-century modernist’s notion of utopian living, with easy subway access, rectilinear streetscapes, scientifically designed housing, and town centers where the Swedish Church occupied one “service” space among many. In contrast, the Järva Lift specifically encourages the creation of new religious spaces, with three mosques now planned for the area.

In conversation with architects and planners, I explore how these mosque projects are traveling across domains of expertise: both via the design ideas brought by clients from abroad and through the planning regimes of the Swedish capital. Group members for two of the mosques come mainly from Somalia, and architects from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have been involved. Even so, it is well-known or up-and-coming Swedish architects with no mosque experience who have been hired to complete the projects. Has bureaucratic expertise (especially an ability to navigate sometimes-opaque planning constraints and codes) trumped the design knowledge that a more seasoned mosque architect might bring?

All seminars in the series.