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First Ismaili Center in the U.S. combines Islamic design with Texas influences

Building Team

First Ismaili Center in the U.S. combines Islamic design with Texas influences

Project includes 11 acres of gardens, courtyards, terraces, and a five-story, tripartite building.

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | July 25, 2022
Ismaili Center Houston ext
Design courtesy of FMA Building and NBW Garden

Construction has begun on the first Ismaili Center in the U.S. in Houston. The facility will serve Ismaili Muslims in and around Houston, which has the largest concentration of Ismaili Muslims in the United States with over 40,000 members.

The Ismaili Center will consist of 11 acres of gardens, courtyards, and terraces and a 150,000 sf, five-story, tripartite building featuring three eivans, or elevated open terraces. The building will include a main atrium, interior courtyards open to the sky, a prayer room or jamatkhana, library, social hall, exhibit hall, council chamber, black box theatre, classrooms, administrative offices, and a café and kitchen for catering events. The center also features a 155,000 sf, 600-car garage beneath the gardens.

Details reflect Islamic design and its historically rooted, rich architectural heritage, combined with Western design that fits Houston’s climate. The building’s exterior is made of matte, sand-colored marble, crafted to create a clean patchwork of tessellated patterns. Ultra-high-performance concrete panels from Monterrey, Mexico compose the atrium, while light-colored stone from Turkey mimics the look of Texas limestone.

Perforated concrete with German glass glazing behind it allows natural light to pour in while keeping the building cool. The building will glow at night, lit from within. All concrete on the project, including sidewalks, feature custom finishes.

The center’s prayer hall, measuring 115 by 115 feet, features a perforated metal ceiling, with three layers of millwork along the walls. The lobby has board form walls, where custom-cut strips of wood are installed at 29-degree angles to create a unique pattern. The eivans are supported by 49 star-shaped columns, the tallest of which is 50 feet.

The design had sustainability in mind and the owners will seek LEED Gold certification. The campus is located adjacent to the Buffalo Bayou and within a flood zone. The building itself is above the flood plain, and the privacy wall that surrounds the gardens allows water in to mitigate flooding in the surrounding area. Landscaping is designed to withstand a flood, and native plants in the garden will work to filter stormwater.

The project is using a 3-D model to ensure each part of the construction process is well coordinated, and a robotic total station created the layout of the jobsite, removing user error and ensuring that all aspects of the site are accurate, according to a news release. McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. broke ground on the project in October 2021, with completion expected in the fourth quarter of 2024.

On the building team:
Owner and/or developer: Ismaili/Ismaili Council for the United States
Design architect: Farshid Moussavi Architecture, collaborating with DLR Group
Architect of record: DLR Group, gardens are designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
MEP engineer: DLR Group
Structural engineer: DLR Group, collaborating with AKT II Engineers
General contractor/construction manager: McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. (Houston office)

Ismaili Center ext 2
Design courtesy of FMA Building and NBW Garden


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