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peace - Tuesday, November 2, 2010 @ 9:57 PM

Oct 4, 2010

Cosmopolitan feel for Ground Zero centre

Biggest part of futuristic building will be for secular pursuits, with Muslim prayer space in basement

The renderings for the building show an exterior (above) which takes a traditional arabesque pattern, weaving it into a geometric mesh, which is extended into the interior (photo 2). -- PHOTOS: ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK: Conceptual sketches of the Islamic centre planned two blocks from Ground Zero envision a futuristic-looking building wrapped in a honeycomb of abstract shapes, with a core containing far more space for secular pursuits than religious worship.

The renderings, some of which were posted on the project's website last week, are preliminary, but they show the development team's desire to build something cosmopolitan and fun on a site now known only for controversy.

'I don't think that once this thing gets built, anyone will be picketing,' said project developer Sharif El-Gamal.

Ground-breaking for construction is probably two to three years away 'or hopefully sooner', he said.

The largest part of the building - four out of its 16 floors - would be taken up by a sports, fitness and swimming centre. Another floor will be occupied by a childcare centre and playground.

Much of the rest of the building will be occupied by a restaurant, culinary school, artists' studios, exhibition space and an auditorium for cultural events.

Mr El-Gamal said the idea was to build a facility which will attract residen

ts of the neighbourhood looking for a place to work out, as well as suburban Muslim couples spending a date night in the city.

The building's Muslim prayer space - which has caused some critics to derisively brand the centre as the 'Ground Zero mega mosque' - will be located over two basement levels.

The 12th floor will hold a 9/11 memorial and sanctuary, open to people of all faiths.

As for the look of the building, it could be an annex to Superman's Fortress of Solitude, with its white walls and floors, and crystalline feel.

The renderings by Soma Architects, a design studio which shares office space with Mr El-Gamal's real estate company, show an exterior which takes a traditional arabesque pattern, an element of Islamic architecture, and weaves it into a geometric mesh, extending into the interior.

'We want to have a marriage between Islamic architecture and New York City. We want to do something that is green and cool,' Mr El-Gamal said.

The actual working plans for the centre are still some time away from completion. An architect has yet to be selected, and fund-raising will probably begin in earnest in about 30 days, he added.



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