Design for Legacy: Bringing Back the Islamic Center of Eastside

The Islamic Center of Eastside (ICOE) in Bellevue, Washington has been a staple of the neighborhood since its founding in 1993. It has served as a safe place of worship and community and was the first permanent mosque in the area. When the property was irreparably damaged after two arson attempts, many in the community were deeply affected—and eager to rebuild. In 2018, Ware Malcomb was engaged to provide architecture and interior design services for the new home of ICOE’s congregation.

Rebuilding in the same location was very important to the community for multiple reasons. From a practical standpoint, the location was ideal. Many congregation members walk multiple times a day to pray. From a metaphysical standpoint, the idea of reconstructing from its ashes had a distinct symbolic significance. It gave a very strong sense of resiliency, which carried through to the design. The city wanted to provide support and make sure the Mosque was able to rebuild. To that end, Ware Malcomb and the city worked together to provide creative solutions on certain programmatic items, including reducing site restrictions and parking requirements and allowing additional square footage to meet current building code.

To help guide the design direction and better understand the space needs, the Ware Malcomb design team collaborated with ICOE community members. The design team also visited different mosques and Muslim community centers with the client to gain a comprehensive understanding of how the spaces were used. It was an enriching personal experience for the design team. Team members had the opportunity to engage themselves in the culture. They got to see and understand how prayer took place and how people moved through the building. “We loved immersing ourselves in this unique project and collaborating with ICOE members to make this building something really special.” said Jonathan Thomas, Regional Director for Ware Malcomb’s Seattle office. “By designing a mosque, we got to learn and see firsthand their traditions. We were able to give back to the community and help them rebuild from their loss.”

The building design is a modern interpretation of a traditional mosque. It has all the vernacular of traditional mosque, but comes in a unique form. There was a very specific thought process behind the materials. Because the original building was lost to fire, the Ware Malcomb design team carefully chose materials that had the look and feel of permanence and solidity. One of the overall design challenges related to positioning the building on the site. It is ideal for the Prayer Room to be oriented towards Mecca since that is the direction congregation members face when praying, but because of the site constraints, the optimal position of the building wouldn’t accommodate this. As a creative alternative, the first floor is oriented towards the street, but internal layouts of the Prayer Halls on the first and second floors face Mecca and are pronounced on the exterior of the building through cantilever pop-outs and changes in material to create meaning in the design beyond aesthetics. This arrangement allows for maximum use of the site, with the entrance situated such that it is intuitive for people to know where to enter as they walk up to the building.

Because Ware Malcomb’s renderings of the mosque were exhibited to garner support for the project and help fundraise, it was important to get the design right. The team wanted to make sure the project was something the congregation and community could get behind and at the end of the day, have a long-lasting home of which they would be proud.

“The ICOE Community is excited to see the mosque coming back,” says Omer Lone, a board member for ICOE. “We are impressed with the new building design and could not have asked for more. Their work has made our mosque something we are proud to have as our legacy for generations to come.”

Ware Malcomb is excited to be providing architecture and interior design for the mosque. This project broke ground in early 2020, with an anticipated completion of early 2021.