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Collector's item Construction of a new mosque in Bradford is taking a very long time. But, says David Hayward, patience seems the best solution.

Every Friday evening, most homes in the large Muslim community just north of Bradford city centre get a visit from the collection team. Each household is invited to contribute to a local construction project that one day will be the social focal point of the area.

And if it has been a good collection, builder Geoff Rose stands to get paid the following week. But there are no guarantees and he is lucky about as often as he is not.

To be frank, Rose seems not overtly worried either way. Owed money or not, he will soldier on with the structure he has been building for the last four years for at least another four.

'Don't ask me for a construction programme, because there isn't one.' he says. 'I have absolutely no idea when this building will be finished.'

Ironically, his laid back attitude is essential to the project's eventual success. Everyone involved - designer, builder, stonemason - must have the same pragmatic approach. Otherwise, it is claimed, the project would grind to a halt and the site return to the derelict half complete building plot that it has been for most of the last 12 years.

For this is mosque construction Bradford style. The imposing sandstone building, slowly rising from derelict land close to the centre is beginning to resemble its designer's claim as one of Europe's largest mosques.

The £1M or so collected so far has more or less funded the structural shell, a two storey steel frame with external sandstone block walls. But at least double that figure is still needed to allow the project team to achieve its second claim - the construction of one of the most ornate mosques in the Muslim world.

The saga of the dome epitomises the project's history. The half complete 11m tall hemispherical steel frame sitting alongside the building is a hive of inactivity. Steel end connection plates have been incorrectly fitted and must be realigned before the 10m diameter shell is ready to be hoisted on to the mosque roof. But that should have happened three months ago and there seems no clear revised date. 'Maybe three or four weeks more,' says Rose.

He can have words with his steelwork subcontractor causing the delay but little more. No-one has any formal contract and sacking 'is not the client's way'.

The real damage, however, is not the continued delay but a further hiccup in cashflow. The all-powerful 100 strong mosque committee - and behind them the thousands of local benefactors - are reluctant to pay for anything until they can see it .

'We'll get nothing for the dome until it's up there on the roof,' says Rose, resignedly. 'I'm 52 now and this job will probably see me through to retirement so I am quite happy as long as it keeps ticking over.'

Rose was just celebrating his 40th when local mosque founder Pir Sayyed Mahroof Hussain Shah Qadiri Naushahi purchased the rough car park site 1km north of the city centre. From that day the land itself was dedicated as holy ground and was regarded as a mosque. No actual building was needed and, from the outset, local inhabitants regarded the site as their 'property'.

The several uninvited visitors who, every day, now casually wander around the well-advanced building site remain a very visual reminder to Rose that he has several thousand clients. But it does somewhat strain the site's health and safety rules.

Also coming and going for nearly a decade were architects, council planning officials and numerous failed designs. Bits of abandoned steel frame and accumulating rubbish were for years the only signs of this place of worship until specialist mosque designer Neil Waghorne, and his builder pal Geoff Rose, arrived about four years ago.

Waghorne substantially redesigned the structure, specifying locally won Yorkshire sand- stone instead of the original red brick. 'Until the planners ruined central Bradford in the 1960s by demolishing everything old, this area was dominated by natural stone buildings,' he says. 'But several neighbouring mills and churches have survived allowing me to design a structure in sympathy with its surroundings.'

Waghorne is well used to working for a Muslim client, having been involved in numerous mosque 'conversions' of houses, cinemas, and even a Co-op shop and a laundrette. To the Muslim faith there is no set mosque design, with the role of the building more important than its physical looks or previous occupancy.

In Bradford, economy usually rules, claims Waghorne, and most conversions involve little more than the addition of 'a garish, glitzy, brightly coloured glass fibre dome that stands out somewhat comically'.

The opportunity to design a mosque from scratch has allowed him to import a more authentic Islamic design, with his new creation modelled on Istanbul's Ottoman-style Sulimani mosque. It will boast heavy oak doors and windows; an ornately carved sandstone exterior and an inside tiled throughout with marble and soaked in rich carpeting - 'no imitation materials here', Waghorne insists.

His still embryonic design for the 40m high eight-sided reinforced concrete minaret shows it shaped like surrounding church spires. Even the planned multi-story carpark next door will be disguised by stone cladding with arch shaped windows doubling as ventilation ducts.

Waghorne is confident that his masterplan will 'eventually' be achieved. He claims to be overcoming the mosque committee's deep set reluctance to fund only the most economic solutions. And he argues that now stonemason Dean Bedford is demonstrating the quality that money can buy, his client is keen for more of the same.

But perfection has another price. Rose and his three man team, with its single strategically placed cement mixer, complain of 'countless changes with walls up and down all over the place'.

'Our four years work could have been completed by a larger firm in just six months,' says Rose. 'But the cost would have been four times higher and there is no way a major builder would take on a job like this.'

And one of the few certainties on the whole project is that the Friday collection is never more than a few days away.

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