Prayer Hall and Feature Elements
Reaching for the sky
Ismaili Centre–Prayer Hall (Glass Roof)
Architect: Charles Correa Associates
with Moriyama & Teshima Architects
Project Type: Structural Engineering, Feature Structures
Attribution: Crispin Howes*
Set within a 6.8-hectare park, the Ismaili Centre is a symbolic marker of the permanent presence of the Ismaili community in Canada. The complex includes a mosque, community centre, and underground parking facility shared with the adjacent Aga Khan Museum. The design of the building deftly integrates themes of geometry and light throughout.
The most prominent feature element of the building is the distinctive prayer hall roof. The pyramidal form spans over a 900m2 column-free area below and rises to 21m at its apex. The roof assembly is comprised of 2 layers of insulated glass panels with a system of sloping steel trusses concealed between the layers. All the glass is translucent except for a single sliver of clear glass, from base to peak, oriented to face Mecca. Within the prayer hall, the translucent glass provides diffuse natural lighting and renders the internal structure as soft shadows. Outside the building, the overall roof is experienced as a glowing crystalline volume when lit from within in the evening.
A BIM approach was essential for the development of the roof system which integrates, mechanical ventilation, lighting, and sprinklers into the cavity between the two layers of glass. The multi-faceted interior surface was product of intensive optimization incorporating the functional requirements within the cavity, varying depth of structure in response to applied loads, and fabrication considerations for the individual glass panels. Components from all disciplines were modeled and coordinated in CATIA with the model exported as contract document for final detailing, fabrication, and erection.
At the main entrance to the building, visitors to the building are sheltered below a large overhead skylight supported on a series of glulam beams. The beams vary in length and depth to suit the oculus shape of the skylight and the structural loading. The core themes of geometry and light are also present in a series of feature skylights throughout the complex. The skylight are focal points for gathering areas including the Ismaili council chamber and youth lounge areas. At each skylight, a minimalist tension rod framing system is uniquely configured in response to the geometry of the individual skylight and the support requirements of the overhead glass. Consistency in theme and detailing joins the individual spaces below, each with a unique function, for a holistic experience within of the overall building.