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The eternal principle behind modern Islamic architecture is about the story that evolves from ancient times of Islam architecture and move towards modernism. Modernism began to slowly grow since Industrial revolution started. Since the period, it has turn Islamic architecture to explore in depth with the use of mass production. At the same time, continuing the richness of Islamic architecture elements and forms with influences from Euro and how it brought to Singapore, which is known to be one of the elite modern countries. The spread through revolution is rapid and challenges occur in Islamic architecture to keep up with the modern times and also embracing its cultural identity.
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The comparison between Euro and Singapore Islamic architecture for religious building carries the same element of projecting modernism as religious spaces. As well as modification of few elements of Islamic form into simplistic manner that fits in the society that lives in.
Academic building as modern Islamic architecture reveals representation of different materials and colours to interpret Islamic perspective. The differences in the application use by Egypt and Singapore were selective yet portray the element of Islamic architecture.
Commercial building in Islamic and Singapore as multi-cultural country sets different challenges. The application of the elements are achievable, however in site context, attraction as identity and carrying the character may be difficult due to the society that lives in, and how they perceive it differently.
The variety of artistic developments in today’s Islamic Architecture is influenced by both traditional forms and by modernism. There was a greater openness of Islamic architecture to European styles, also varied and distinctive new approaches to the analysis of their own tradition. Whether or not it ranges from secular to religious, Islamic architecture carry the same element of style such as the geometric shapes and repetitive art.
Standing still in this modern era, Islamic architecture has been famous for its traditional forms. For example the concept of art rests on a basic foundation of calligraphy, geometry and, in architecture, the repetition and multiplication of elements based on the arch. Usually there are allied and parallel floral and figural motifs. Other element such as the water and light are also important for Islamic architecture decoration as they contribute in generating layers of pattern for surface decoration. With these surfaces, they are able to transform space. Since surface is articulated by decoration, there is an intimate connection in Islamic architecture between space and deco.
Modernism in Islamic architecture will be covered in three aspects such as religious architecture, academic as well as commercial spaces.To begin with, the aspect of modern Islamic architecture of religious spaces such as the Mosque shows a great departure from traditional to futuristic look. Resulting in hybrid buildings where traditional facades of arches and domes are grafted onto modern high-rises.
2.1 As a case study of Euro-Islamic architecture, the Penzberg Islamic Centre built in a small German town between Munich and Alps, boldly demonstrates the compatibility of mosques and modernism. minarets are shortened and serve no purpose unlike minaret of traditional Islamic Mosque that is tall in height are usually use as a way call people for prayers.
However, The building in night scene. The minaret serves its purpose as light which illuminates the ornamental decoration wrapped around. The idea shows the model notions of enlightened Islam. Apart from the shortened minaret, whose colours sets it apart from the course being sandstone facade, the centre is not obviously marked out as a typical religious building. The exterior already hints at the contemplative atmosphere of the prayer hall inside.
The main entrance that is made to stand out by slanted concrete slabs symbolizing the pages of a book, on which words from the Koran can be read. Whereas on the right, the interior has shows the modernist idea of working with the simplest means by having no huge chandeliers and no exuberant ornaments.
Adding dynamic quality to the architecture is by playing with lights. The same key element uses often in Islamic architecture. The way the light falls draws attention to the ceiling and wall panels, where ornaments are applied to the unclad concrete that can be read as expressions of divine boundlessness. The abstracted star motifs contain The 99 Names of God – such as “The Most Merciful” and “The Utterly Just” – in calligraphy.
Modern Islamic Architecture can exist anywhere in Europe since Europe society can keep with constantly developing innovation and the idea of understanding faith but not tradition that is set in stone. In Europe, the mosque of today must represent a distinct type that reveals the 20th century that is when it meets the fitting choice for future generations.
Modern Islamic architecture may took over in Europe, going back to local context, Euro-Islamic architecture are also influencing Singapore. Singapore is well known for ‘here and now’ architecture building that surrounds the entire city. Modernity is what Singapore falls under. Overshadowing the historical sites, modern Islamic architecture in Singapore is becoming more dominant.
The second case studies in local context for religious building are the Assyafaah mosque located at Admiralty lane in Singapore.
The Assyafaah Mosque
The Assyafah Mosque uses a contemporary interpretation of the arabesque, a universally recognizable symbol of Islamic Art and Architecture, to create an original identity for the modern mosque. The use of the positive arabesque, a double arabesque to make the notions of overlapping geometries more explicit and negative arabesques are seamlessly incorporated in the design of this mosque. The architects state that “the use of the arabesque patterns to symbolize the Quran’s attributes provides a link to the past.”
The minarets were done in modernist way. It is similar to Penzberg Islamic centre minaret which is done in a simple form. The minaret of Assyafaah mosque is a symbol of ‘alif’ which is the first letter word of Arab language. The idea of integrating letters as minarets further emphasize Islamic architecture elements rather than using complex calligraphy form.
The column free prayer hall framed by its ribbed and arched fairfaced concrete structure rising from the floor and opening upwards towards the quadruple volume in front of the mihrab wall
The three-dimensional arches, which serve the purpose of transferring the structural loads of the upper three storeys help provide a column free span in the lower prayer space. The concrete arches are a great prove of how the architect explores usage of material which look as raw yet prove to be aesthetically pleasing. At the same time, they serve to guide the eye of the user towards the four-storey high marble clad mihrab wall, bathed in natural light.
The light filtering through, very much a-like to Tadao Ando style of playing with lights.
Again, the nature of keeping elements of Islamic architecture by using natural light to seep through the calligraphy patterned frames which act as light filtering, making the facade to look more lacy by trapping some light and diffuse it with most subtle gradations. The uses of geometrical facade assure the Islamic architectural method of using optical effect shows how different thicknesses of frame define the sophisticated effect.
2.2 Apart from religious building, academic buildings in Islamic architecture are as well influence with modern contemporary architecture.
The third case studies for academic buildings are the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt. The structure illustrates the rich historical and rapid modern evolution of the Islamic past. The design portrays the idea of openness, containment and all encompassing knowledge in its main geometric form, the circle. Partly, Islamic elements such as the geometric patterns permitted an interrelationship between the parts and the whole building complex.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina Exterior facade
The stone walls of the library
The idea of openness with the integration of water. As an influence of Islamic architecture, water reflects architecture and also serves its means by emphasizing the visual axes. Like the mirror, they give fluidity, dynamic yet show the static architecture.
Besides having literal water elements, another way to represents Earth element reflected in one of the Modern Islamic academic architecture in Singapore which is Al-Mukminin Madrasah located in Jurong East.
Exterior building of Al-Mukminin
For the fourth case study is about the building as total modernization of Islamic architecture. Arabesque pattern is not evident in this building, however, the building play with colours despite no vivid traditional form. The underlying exploration of this facade is the use of Islamic colours to represent water, sky and ground. The multi-shade colours also gives an optical illusion effect from far, creating dematerialisation which is one of the technique element that from Islamic architecture usually use in traditional times.
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2.3 The last aspect besides Religious and academic building are the commercial building. One of the examples for commercial building for Islamic architecture would be the museum of Islamic Art in Qatar by I.M Pei. He uses geometrical forms and symmetry applied for the design concept. Clearly, it is not a hybrid futuristic building which usually uses metal and glass cladding as the facade. Instead, he uses limestone marble which gives the smooth touch against the solid form building. As compared to traditional times of using mud brick construction, the limestone marble gives off the modernistic look and also how the block are arranged in sequence manner in parallel.
Museum of Islamic Art Exterior Front and Interior
The front view of the museum shows two pillar which look like the modern minarets. Traditional domes are not seen evidently, however in the interior, tall arches are not seen instead walls slanted in symmetrical direction toward the ceiling in geometrical forms that creates spherical domes made up of geometric shapes. The dome also gives a hint of natural light to pass through. Elements of Islamic principle are still applicable to commercial spaces. The aim to enhance space through patterns proves dynamically interesting for a modern Islamic building. The solidity of the forms made up is in repetition direction along with different proportions which then allows the eternal principles of Islamic architecture of rhythmical movement.
The last case study for Commercial buildings as modern Islamic architecture is the Haniffa, a famous textile company originated from India, the building is located by Keng Lee road, Singapore. The building shows strong influence of Euro-Islamic architecture.
In conclusion, the desire for rapid development has brought in influences from Western architecture to Islamic architecture due to the Industries revolution that pushes the Islamic architecture to move forward by understanding the essence Islamic principles in architecture and then allows modern building technology to be the tool in the expression. Tool of expression in terms of the mass production of materials has become an advantage for designers to explore with the possibilities of transforming forms by moving away from traditional techniques into modern ways. Such application is strongly reflected on Singapore context for Islamic architecture. Most Islamic architecture buildings in Singapore were made in modern ways. However, the challenge that is set for Singapore is how it may stand apart from other non-Islamic architecture tall buildings that have been the ultimate identity of Singapore. In order to create modern Islamic architecture identity should be more evident, and the relevance to eternal principle of Islam is important. This can be achieve by creating forms in relation with traditional Islamic elements that evolves through modern approach and at the same time carry its own characteristic. Hence, the regional identity of Islamic architecture will then become an evolution to modern Islamic era.
List of references
- James Steele  Architecture for Islamic Societies Today, Academy Editions / The Aga Khan Award For Architecture, St.Martins Pr, United Kingdom
- Cristian Welzbacher  EURO-ISLAM Architecture (The New Mosques in the West), Sun Publisher,Saudi Arabia
- Renata Holo, Hasan Uddin Khan  The Mosque & The Modern World, Thames & Hudson Publisher, Australia
- Markus Hattstein, Peter Delius  ISLAM Art & Architecture, Konemann, New York
- Richard Ettinghausen, Oleg Grabar  The Art and Architecture Of Islam 650-1250 , Yale University Press, Connecticut
- Phillipa Baker  Architecture & Polyphony Building in the Islamic World Today,Thames & Hudson Publisher, Yemen
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