subscribe to ENR magazine subscribe
contact us
advertise
careers industry jobs
events events
FAQ
Mcgraw Hill Construction
ENR Logo
SUBSCRIBE TODAY
& receive immediate web access
comment

Q&A: Michel Abboud, Designer of Park51

Text size: A A

ENR reporter Alex Padalka recently sat down with Michel Abboud, a principal at SOMA, to discuss the New York firm’s involvement in the controversial Park51 Islamic community center and prayer space proposed for Lower Manhattan. Renderings of the 15-story building—labeled the Ground Zero Mosque by its opponents—recently were released.

The Park51 Islamic center’s design was unveiled recently.
Image: Courtesy Of Soma
The Park51 Islamic center’s design was unveiled recently.
----- Advertising -----

Q: What can you tell me about your firm?

A: We have offices in New York, Mexico and Beirut. With the economic crisis, we wanted to extend our projects in the Middle East, so the past couple of years we’ve done a lot of work there.

What about in the U.S.?

We’re doing a building in TriBeCa that is almost finished. We did 93 Crosby St. [a condo] in SoHo. We’ve done mostly condos and also a lot of restaurants. We’ve built in seven different states.

How old are you?

[Laughs] I’m 33. Even the developer [Sharif L-Gamal, owner of SoHo Properties] is young [age 37]. We have 50-year-old people in our office, and we have 26- year-olds. It’s like any other office. ... I’m Catholic, so that shows we’re not an Islamic firm. For us, Park51 is about joining cultural differences. You’ve got a developer who’s Egyptian, who’s from a Polish Catholic mother who goes to a Jewish community center. And you have a Lebanese architect who has citizenship in France and Mexico. It’s a mix of a cultures. Isn’t that the whole point of this project?

What are you trying to convey with the design of the building?

We knew we didn’t want the building to look like anything else. We wanted it to be recognizable as Islamic, without necessarily being religious.

What will Park51 contain?

In terms of program, the only religious component is the Muslim prayer space. We’re not calling it a mosque because it’s really not a mosque. A mosque has a very clear typology, with an open plaza and a minaret. You’re never going to see these things in this building. It’s called a prayer space, and it’s on the two levels below the ground floor. Obviously, [the two levels] split between female and male. Everything above the ground floor will be secular architecture, for secular programming. You have restaurants, child-care facilities, a culinary school, a sports center with basketball courts, a pool, a library, an auditorium. Then you have the offices, workshops, even live-work spaces for artists. It’s a little like Villa de Medici.

 

----- Advertising -----
  Blogs: ENR Staff   Blogs: Other Voices  
Critical Path: ENR's editors and bloggers deliver their insights, opinions, cool-headed analysis and hot-headed rantings
Project Leads/Pulse

Gives readers a glimpse of who is planning and constructing some of the largest projects throughout the U.S. Much information for pulse is derived from McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge.

For more information on a project in Pulse that has a DR#, or for general information on Dodge products and services, please visit our Website at www.dodge.construction.com.

Information is provided on construction projects in following stages in each issue of ENR: Planning, Contracts/Bids/Proposals and Bid/Proposal Dates.

View all Project Leads/Pulse »

 Reader Comments:

Sign in to Comment

To write a comment about this story, please sign in. If this is your first time commenting on this site, you will be required to fill out a brief registration form. Your public username will be the beginning of the email address that you enter into the form (everything before the @ symbol). Other than that, none of the information that you enter will be publically displayed.

We welcome comments from all points of view. Off-topic or abusive comments, however, will be removed at the editors’ discretion.