Fort Collins Community Members and Colorado State University Students Team Up to Design New Islamic Center

A unique service-learning project has presented Colorado State University interior design students with challenges, both in the way they view design problem-solving and the way they view the world.

This semester, 39 senior interior design students have worked with the Islamic Center of Fort Collins to design a new Islamic Center and alternative school to serve the Fort Collins community. The class project has given students an opportunity to learn the values, beliefs and heritage of the Muslim faith as well as the experience of working with a client in developing designs.

The class will share their completed projects with the Islamic community and all interested members of the Fort Collins community from noon-7 p.m. Dec. 14 in Room C102 Aylesworth Hall on the Colorado State campus. Students will be on hand to answer questions about their projects from noon-1:30 p.m.. An open reception will take place from 1:30-7 p.m.

The Islamic Center of Fort Collins has operated out of a remodeled church at 900 Peterson Ave. since 1980, but as Fort Collins’ Muslim community has continued to grow, so has the need for a new facility.

"There are probably 1,200 Muslims in our community now," said Mohamed Worayeth, member of Fort Collins’ new Islamic Center Committee. "In 1980, there were only about 200, so the space now has become inadequate."

The students considered cost limitations and specific client needs while designing 39 individual programs and schematic plans for the new complex. Each set of programs and plans includes a mosque, a recreation center and a school. The final plans for the new center will be a composite of many of the students’ designs.

"The students did a lot of research and their designs have really shown a desire to get to know the religion and what we are looking for," Worayeth said. "Their designs have been a great asset in generating ideas about what the new center should look like. It’s exciting. It’s starting to feel closer."

The proposed $1.5 million, 20,000- to 30,000-square-foot center will be built on a three-acre parcel of land owned by the Islamic Center. The site is between Prospect Road and Lake Street south of the Colorado State campus.

"Getting to know the client and learning about a different culture and faith was a huge challenge for the students even before the events of Sept. 11," said Katharine Leigh, one of two instructors who teach the interior design course in the Department of Design and Merchandising within Colorado State’s College of Applied Human Sciences. "These students aren’t architects, yet they have developed designs that any architect could take and implement. The dedication of the students and the designs they have produced have really been remarkable."

Students visited a Denver mosque as well as several schools and recreation centers to gather information for their designs. Contacts within the local Muslim community helped the students understand how Islam and its traditions and tenets impact design decisions. Students have met with a committee from the Islamic Center several times to evaluate ongoing designs, exchange ideas and receive suggestions.

For Abir Atma, a Muslim and Colorado State senior, the project has been especially meaningful. Atma helped bring the project to the class and has provided her classmates with feedback and insight throughout the project.

"It was important to help my classmates understand my religion and take a more personal interest in it than what they see on the news," Atma said. "I was happy to have the opportunity to show them how diverse Islam is as a religion, how people from different nations come together under a common understanding and how Islam is a religious culture, not a national one."

For more information about the new Islamic Center, contact Mohamed Worayeth at (970) 484-5084.