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NYC Mosque Design Add to Debate

The developer behind the controversial Park51 Islamic cultural center has released the first official renderings  of what the 16-story building might look like. The Islamic center is envisioned as having a sleek, modern design covered in hexagrams that resemble a honeycomb.

However, as has been the case throughout the controversy surrounding the project, critics are finding other messages in the design plans. Conservative blogger Pam Geller, a leading foe of the project, has denounced the honeycomb design as a representation of "crashing Stars of David," and described the design plan as "diabolically audacious."

Other observers have interpreted the conceptual plans as a statement on the project's broader interfaith message. Ed Pilkington, a writer for the U.K. Guardian, contends the structure's Star of David echo is one among several design elements crafted consciously in "homage to other religions"; the overall effect of the drawings, he argues, is to render Park51 a "decidedly upbeat and glamorous building, more festive than threatening." Meanwhile, a Park51 spokesman pointed out through Twitter that the hexagrams come from an Arabic architecture technique called Mashrabiya.

The project's developer, meanwhile, is confident the building will win over its many detractors."I don't think that once this thing gets built, anyone will be picketing," Sharif El-Gamal told the Associated Press.

El-Gamal told the AP that four of the 16 floors will be a swimming pool and sports center, one floor will be a child care center, and two floors at the bottom will be a prayer space for Muslims. A 9/11 memorial will be on the 12th floor. A restaurant, auditorium, artist studios and culinary school will take up the rest of the space.

The drawings come from Soma Architects, one of several firms competing for the contract. No architect has been picked, and fundraising has not officially begun for the project.

Here's the image of the interior:

And here's another interior view of the project:

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