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Published: Wednesday, 8/11/2004

New dome on the way for mosque

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

The change is being made because the existing dome atop the Middle Eastern-style mosque, near Perrysburg at the busy confluence of I-75 and I-475, is covered with an epoxy that requires frequent recoating, Hussien Shousher said yesterday.

The new dome will be 30 feet high and weigh 18,000 pounds. It is being manufactured by a California firm that has built 6,000 aluminum domes for structures ranging from religious buildings to solid-waste facilities. The company, Temcor, has built domes for two other mosques, both in Saudi Arabia, a company spokesman said yesterday.

Toledo's SSOE Inc. will oversee the structural and architectural

aspects of the dome. It will be assembled at the Perrysburg Township site and put in place atop the existing dome by the Toledo construction firm Rudolph-Libbe Inc.

The aluminum dome most likely will be painted gold, although the board will make a final decision on the color next week, Mr. Shousher said. The paint should last 25 to 30 years before requiring another coat, he said.

A 12-foot spire topped with the Muslim symbol of a crescent moon and star will rise from the peak of the dome. Construction is tentatively scheduled for early November.

"It is not going to change anything in the mosque, but it will give it a new look," said Imam Farooq Abo-Elzahab, spiritual leader of the Islamic Center. "I think it will be great. I have been looking for a change to break that plain white building. If we have a golden dome, that will be unique."

Board members conducted a two-year study to find a more durable dome. They evaluated several choices, wanting to maintain the integrity of the original design's intent, said Mr. Shousher, 45, a civil engineer who led the board's effort.

"Architectural forms are not prescribed in Islam, but we didn't want to do something inappropriate," he said. "Islamic architecture needs to be in harmony with the people, with our environment, and most importantly, with our Creator."

The current dome - made of three separate layers of plaster, concrete, and Styrofoam and 60 feet in diameter - is structurally sound but because of the Midwest's temperature extremes, its epoxy coating has many small cracks that need touching up, Mr. Shousher said.

Imam Farooq said he thinks the new dome will appeal to travelers.

"I think the new look will be kind of fascinating for people who drive by day after day," he said. "It will be a kind of attraction in itself."

Mr. Shousher said the dome's triangulated patterns will reflect the sun and provide contrasting colors as the angle of the rays change. He said board members do not think the dome will distract drivers or cause "gawkers" to snarl traffic.

Joe Rutherford, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation, concurred that the change should not cause any problems for the 110,000 vehicles that drive past it daily on the two interstate highways.

"The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo is already a recognized local landmark for travelers and others," he said. "The aesthetic changes to the Islamic Center will not make it any more, or less, of a distraction to motorists."

The Islamic Center was founded in 1954 at Cherry and Bancroft streets in Toledo and relocated to Perrysburg Township in 1983. About 500 families from 23 countries belong to the mosque, Imam Farooq said.

Mr. Shousher said members of the board want the aluminum dome to reflect the mosque's positive standing in northwest Ohio.

"I believe, as always, that while the mosque is considered a monument and a landmark when traveling the I-75 corridor, more importantly we want to be considered a pillar or good citizen of this community," Mr. Shousher said.

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.



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