The geometric form of the mosque, based on a recurring theme of square units, follows Islamic law, which prohibits the depiction of natural forms since they are made in the image of God. The result is a striking blend of ancient Islamic tradition and contemporary design and materials.
The mosque pictured here is in the middle of New York City—at 74°45' west longitude and 40°56' north latitude. Mecca can be found at 39°49' E and 21°27' N. When you do the math, you'll find that the mosque faces the direction you would travel along Earth's surface directly above the straight line that connects New York City to Mecca through the solid Earth.
Such a route is more formally called a geodesic or great circle route and represents the shortest distance between any two points on a curved surface, or even between any two points in the curved space of the universe.
The Islamic Cultural Center was the first building erected as a mosque in New York City. It contains the two primary elements that traditionally compose an Islamic house of worship: a mosque and a minaret. Within the mosque, the mihrab, or alter niche, faces Mecca, dictating the mosque’s 29 degree angle from the Manhattan street grid. This alignment creates a traditional exterior court for worshipers to gather before services.