The GAA Foundation invited me to participate in Venice Design 2018, an annual exhibition showcasing select furniture pieces by international designers at the beautiful building, the Palazzo Michiel, for the same period as the Venice Biennale (May 25th until November 25th). When the curators Anais Hammoud and Camille Guibaud asked me to participate, they were seeking a piece that echoed the theme of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 which was about freespace, humanity and a space for healing. Although I already had a piece that dealt with the same issues, the masallah, I wanted to produce a new piece never before seen, and so the idea for the traveling mihrab came about.
The piece deals with architectural ‘freespace’ since it is a part of deconstructing the elements of today’s mosque, which are the minaret, the dome, and the mihrab. It develops a product used in the Fatimid dynasty/period of Islam which was a heavy carved wooden mihrab carried on camelback when Muslims migrated to another city, this design is lightweight and easy to place anywhere for collective prayer. The piece needed to be something sculptural and at an architectural scale so that its three-dimensionality is palpable.
Secondly, the piece has a humanitarian aspect since it had to find a solution to a problem that people face, and a space for healing can translate into many things in architecture, and the space that is known by many to be for healing is a space for prayer, whether it be a building of worship, a room, or open area, the design takes these main three elements into account and produces something culturally known to the Muslim countries and Muslims around the globe.
Traveling Mihrab brings an Arabesque quality to Venice Design 2018 that is both contemporary and rooted in Islamic culture, and interplays with the diversity of pieces in the exhibition in a delightfully cohesive manner.