Avant-garde mosque angers hard-liners in Iran

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In this Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, photo, pillars and the spiral ceiling of the Vali-e-Asr mosque are seen, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
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In this Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, photo, roof of the Vali-e-Asr mosque and the Tehran city Theater iconic building are seen, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
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In this Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, photo, pillars and the spiral ceiling of the Vali-e-Asr mosque are seen, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
Updated 25 February 2018
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Avant-garde mosque angers hard-liners in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran: A newly built avant-garde mosque in the heart of Iran’s capital would have hard-liners shouting from the minarets — if there were any.
The architects behind the Vali-e-Asr mosque dispensed with the traditional rounded domes and towering minarets, opting instead for a modern design of undulating waves of gray stone and concrete, which they say complements the surrounding architecture and evokes the austerity of early Islam.
The new structure has infuriated hard-liners, who see it as part of a creeping secular onslaught on the Islamic republic. An editorial posted on the Mashregh news website compared the curvature to that of a Jewish yarmulke, accusing authorities of “treason” for approving it. The “completely neutral” design betrays an “atheistic approach,” it said.
The mosque has emerged as the latest battleground in a longstanding culture war between hard-liners and Iran’s vibrant artistic community, which has hoped — often in vain — for greater openness since President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, was elected in 2013.
The 25,000-square-meter (270,000 sq. feet) structure rises smoothly from a major intersection, in a popular shopping area near Tehran University that also hosts cultural and artistic events. It’s adjacent to the City Theater of Tehran, an iconic building dating back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and the mosque includes its own library, reading halls, classrooms and amphitheater.
Reza Daneshmir, one of the architects, said he struggled for months before finally convincing authorities that a traditional mosque would look out of place at the site. He even argued his case before a parliamentary committee.
City officials “objected and said it did not look like a mosque, did not resemble the conventional form of a mosque, and that it couldn’t be done,” he said. “I explained who the real audiences of this mosque are,” he said, referring to the young, bohemian Iranians who frequent the neighborhood. “I finally succeeded in persuading them.”
“We wanted it to be an avant-garde project, not a conservative and backward one,” he added.
He and his co-designer, Catherine Spiridonoff, point out that mosques come in many shapes and sizes, and that the first mosque ever built, at the time of the Prophet Muhammad, was a simple structure without domes or minarets.
The dome structure, which had been used in pagan and Christian architecture for centuries before the arrival of Islam, was only adopted later, as were minarets. In the past, a muezzin would climb a spiral staircase to the top of the minaret five times a day to call the faithful to prayer, but that practice has all but disappeared across the Muslim world, where most mosques are now equipped with loudspeakers.
Those arguments carry little weight with Iran’s hard-liners and conservatives, who fear that the questioning of traditional structures — including the concrete variety — could erode the foundations of the Islamic republic. Mashregh says the architects sacrificed traditional design “at the foot of the City Theater.”
The structure was nevertheless completed, after 10 years and at a cost of $16 million. It is expected to be opened to the public within the coming months.
Nima Borzouie, an 18-year-old student, acknowledged that he was initially unaware the building included a mosque, but said he approved of the idea.
“The spiritual aspect of a mosque is more important than its architecture,” he said. “It’s no big deal if it does not follow the stereotypical architecture of mosques that have domes or minarets. It is a place of worship.”


Han Solo’s ‘Return of the Jedi’ blaster sells for $550,000

Updated 24 June 2018
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Han Solo’s ‘Return of the Jedi’ blaster sells for $550,000

  • The faux weapon, mainly made of wood, had been put on display in New York by Julien’s Auctions last month after more than 30 years tucked away in the belongings of James Schoppe, art director of “Return of the Jedi”
  • Martin Nolan, the auction house’s executive director, said Schoppe, an Oscar nominee for his work on the film, finally decided to part with Solo’s gun and about 40 other items from the movie, including an Ewok axe and plans for Jabba the Hutt’s ship

WASHINGTON: In the wildly popular “Star Wars” films, Han Solo once told a lightsaber-wielding Luke Skywalker: “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”
That was the case when one of the blaster pistol props used by Harrison Ford in “Return of the Jedi” (1983) went under the hammer, selling for $550,000 — topping the $450,000 previously fetched by Skywalker’s lightsaber from the first two films.
“SOLD for $550,000! An original Han Solo blaster used in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi!” Julien’s Auctions announced on Twitter Saturday.
The faux weapon, mainly made of wood, had been put on display in New York by Julien’s Auctions last month after more than 30 years tucked away in the belongings of James Schoppe, art director of “Return of the Jedi.”
Martin Nolan, the auction house’s executive director, said Schoppe, an Oscar nominee for his work on the film, finally decided to part with Solo’s gun and about 40 other items from the movie, including an Ewok axe and plans for Jabba the Hutt’s ship.
The Ewok axe went for $11,250, while another blaster prop from the film fetched $90,624, according to Julien’s Auctions.
But none of the props were a match for the space saga’s much-loved droid: last year, an R2-D2 used in the making of several “Star Wars” films sold for $2.76 million at auction in Los Angeles.