Algeria is set to begin construction of what is expected to be, after worship centers in the Saudi Arabia holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the world’s third-largest mosque. In February, China’s state-controlled China State Construction Engineering Corp. signed a $1.3-billion construction contract for the project.
Three years ago, the World Bank debarred the contractor for six years due to corruption involving a road-network improvement project in the Philippines.
The mosque complex will be built opposite the Bay of Algiers, some six kilometers from the city of Algiers. Designed by a German consortium comprising KSP Jurgen Engel Architekten and Krebs und Kiefer International, it will occupy an estimated 400,000 square meters and rest on a 5-m-thick platform.
"There will be nothing like it in the world—religiously, in tourism and economically," said Bouabdallah Ghlamallah, Algeria's religious affairs minister, after the signing of the contract.
The mosque’s minaret will ascend 265 m into the sky, making it the tallest minaret on any mosque in the world. The closest two rivals—the minarets on the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco—are both 210 m high. Elevators with panoramic views will give visitors access to upper floors.
Covering the skyscraper-like minaret will be semi-transparent ornamental elements known in Arabic architecture as "mashrabiya." KSP Jurgen Engel Architekten says, "[The elements] will surround the tower like a second skin and also serve as protection against the sun."
Visitors to the minaret will have an opportunity to view Algiers from the structure’s top level, which will remain open to the public.
"At night, the glass surrounding the top of the minaret shines brightly. As a point of orientation, it is visible over a long distance and will be a new landmark in Algiers,” the German architectural firm says.
The mosque’s prayer hall, shaped like a cube with regular rows of pillars, will be 145 m sq and 22.5 m high; it will have the capacity to accommodate 35,000 worshippers at one time.
Within the prayer hall is a 45-m-high second cube that has a central dome measuring 70 m high on a base 50 m in dia. The dome’s measurements come close to the world’s largest religious dome: Malaysia’s Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque, which measures 51.4 m in dia and rises 106.7 m above ground level.
With an outer skin of natural stone in accordance with Islamic places of worship, the mosque's design is informed by the frequency of earthquakes in Algeria. Four major earthquakes have struck the region since 1956; the last one, in 2003, killed more than 3,000 people and inflicted immense structural damage. Base isolators will cushion the mosque against damage from forces imposed by seismic events.