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Mosque for Bey Mia - Green Masjid
Eldorado Park, Johannesburg, Gauteng

Amancio d’Alpoim Miranda (Pancho) GUEDES: Architect



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26°17'46.94" S 27°55'10.22" E Alt: 1609m

Pancho Guedes delivered a lecture to the Architectural Association in London in 1980 presenting seven related 'stories' about some of his recent work - all of which were 'Bubblies' - his twenty-fifth style. Bubblies are a family of designs all incorporating curved forms. The following transcript of the third story described the Mosque for Bey Mia, titled "The convenient dream." You will see how convenient it turned out to be.

The story called 'The Convenient Dream' is about a mosque which I designed one Friday night when I went to have dinner with an old friend. Bey Mia had asked a plan maker for a design for a cheap mosque that he wanted to build. He had taken the design of that mosque to the municipality and they had thrown it out. He was most disappointed as he wanted to build the mosque quickly because he had a serious heart condition requiring surgery, and he wanted to make his peace with Allah before embarking on the operation. He asked me to give him a sketch for a good and cheap mosque which he would have drawn up by a draughtsman because he could not afford to appoint me. I explained that I would love to do such a mosque irrespective of whether there was money to pay me or not.

Just at the time I was reading Bruschi's book on Bramante, and I took the idea of the courtyard of Santa Maria della Pace and its system of proportion which Bruschi had analysed. I drew a double square plan, one square being the mosque, the other the courtyard, and made a three-dimensional sketch of my mosque before dinner. When I finished the sketches I showed them to Bey and said: Look, this is tonight's mosque - Friday's mosque, that is how we propose to do it and he asked me to draw the municipal drawings for it so he could get it approved. I wanted to make the mosque a perfect cube, but it got too high and expensive so I had to cut it down to half a cube. The duality remained: the solid squared volume of the mosque and the void of the courtyard.

We could not afford to go to a contractor so we began building with Harry. Harry is quite a well known local ex-champion boxer. Soon after he had started building he made a number of mistakes with the foundations. I went to the building site with Bey to check the foundations and discovered the errors and showed Harry what he had to do to put them right. That night Harry had a dream like he had never had before. In his dream he had been in the boxing ring with me and I had given him a hiding. After that dream Harry behaved very well, was most careful and did not make any more mistakes, until towards the end he recovered his confidence and abandoned the job without finishing it.

The mosque is in Eldorado Park, a coloured township outside Johannesburg, and occupies three-quarters of a square of four bays per side. The remaining quarter is a verandah which opens onto the courtyard. The courtyard is contained by a wing on the west comprising the washing room for men, the entrance hall and an office, and by another almost symmetrical wing on the east consisting of the lavatories for men and women, an entrance hall for women and the stairs to the balcony which has the washing room for women underneath it. The first floor consists of a balcony which occupies a half of the square and overlooks the mosque. The balcony is for women and doubles up as the Koran school until such time as funds are available to build the one I have envisaged, enclosing the courtyard and locking the back into the grid of the township.

The construction of the building is very simple. The walls are in stock brick, bagged externally and plastered internally. The balcony slab is in precast elements. The exposed trusses are made up of second-hand lengths of pine bolted together. The roof is corrugated. At one stage it was going to be second-hand corrugated iron, but Bey Mia managed to find the money to buy enough new sheets. That is the reason why the roof has not been painted yet. It must weather first. The sign tower is built up of precast concrete drain pipes which were a gift because they were all a bit faulty. The sign is the grandchild of the monument to Professor Sutton. The star must be placed in its correct position.

The early axonometric shows the relationship of the various elements, but not the circular wall which now encloses the courtyard, nor the mouldings around the circular windows and the meandering coloured bands. The colour scheme is in four colours. The walls up to the meandering bands are painted dark green. The bands, windows, doors, gutters, downpipes and roofs are in bright purple. The walls up from the bands are light green.


Extract from a transcript of a talk delivered to the Architectural Association (AA) in London in 1980 during an exhibition of Pancho Guedes' work hosted by the AA and arranged by his son Pedro Guedes. The talk was published by the AA:

Guedes, Pancho. Recent Work. Annals of the Architectural Association School of Architecture. Volume 1 No 1. Winter 1981 -1982. pp 129 -132.

Submitted by Pedro Guedes via William Martinson from the Pancho Guedes archive.