Friday, January 27, 2017

MURCUTT’S MOSQUE – MEANINGS & SOURCES




As the construction proceeds to completion, more images of the Newport mosque, the Australian Islamic Centre in Melbourne, designed by Glenn Murcutt in association with Hakan Elevli of Elevli Plus, are being published.* The NGV’s, the National Gallery of Victoria, recent exhibition at Federation Square - Glenn Murcutt: Architecture of Faith - has only hastened and broadened the promotion of these photographs and sketches, turning them into ‘works of art’ with their unique context that seems to anticipate a great work of architecture. Not many unfinished buildings get such hype prior to their completion. Is the exhibition premature? Perhaps, but it is because of this public display that one feels as though one can comment on the work as presented to date.


Light boxes on the mosque roof


Light box on display at the NGV



While the photographs cannot disguise the stage they illustrate, the sketches can. Are the sketches working documents or have they been prepared for public exhibition and promotional consumption? Being ‘in the industry,’ one knows how things occur from time to time, how sketches can be deliberately conjured up to suggest an inspirational beginning, and a free, clever, ‘creative’ investigative process. The fact that the sketches are all so very accurate in their finality seems to imply that they might have been scribbled freehand after the event to appear otherwise. Working documents are usually a lot more messy, more uncertain in their appearance, more searching in their lines and expression: more unresolved. They are tentative rather than self-assured; they generally take on the appearance of a palimpsest, a controlled chaos careless of appearances, only concerned with the depth, clarity and integrity of the resolution.




The Murcutt drawings – one assumes they are his - look more like self-conscious architectural ‘sketch-like’ illustrations, purposefully-styled renderings, than the lines of the thinking mind guiding the meandering hand as it prods discovery along the edge of the void, on that cliché ‘blank sheet of paper’ that lies at the heart of the challenge confronting all designers. Still, the drawings are pretty: see – How poetry comes to me and The Muse – getting it right in the sidebar.



Scarborough College, John Andrews


The definitive working sketch drawing is that by John Andrews. The original development plan for Scarborough College in Toronto, now the University of Toronto, Scarborough, was presented to the college on its completion, to be permanently displayed in the main foyer. This very large drawing of the whole complex illustrated the thinking, the searching, and the revelations involved in designing of the college expressed as a mishmash of meandering lines merging into meaning. It is a beautiful, coloured palimpsest, a layering of process in line and form, in plan and section, in broad diagram and in intimate detail. Charles Rennie Macintosh has done similar ‘thinking’ development drawings of his detailed work using a much more refined and delicate line and layering technique. The Andrews drawing holds the bold, rambling, inquistive quality of a John Olsen painting, but it does refer to things real and tangible: just look around the college that seems to materialise the early futuristic studies of Antonio Sant’Elia. Few of these probing qualities are revealed in the very tidy and complete Murcutt drawings that appear more representational than revelatory. They hold little doubt, just self-assurance; they know too much, too precisely - see: http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/on-drawing-personal-note.html


The mosque is not yet complete, but the images made public to date do suggest some sources. The blurb explains how Murcutt has attempted to interpret the mosque in a new manner rather than collect the traditional images and expressions, and shape them in new materials. Rather Murcutt explains how he has sought out new meanings, forms and expressions for all of the traditional pieces and parts of the mosque for Australian Muslims. 


Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul, Sinân



So it is that he uses light in colours he claims are symbolic for Islam and does away with the usual dominant dome. In the same manner the eye-catching traditional minarets made iconic by Sinân, have been re-invented as a smaller, less ascendant form apparently because Murcutt claims that it will never be used for the call to prayer. All the traditional spaces and functions are in the building complex, even the body of still water that traditionally symbolises life and purity. The question lingers: can light boxes replace the symbolism of the dome? -
“The dome is, of course, a cosmic symbol in every religious tradition; and symbolically, in Islam the dome represents the vault of heaven in the same way as the garden prefigures Paradise,” wrote James Dickie in his book “Allah and Eternity: Mosques, Madrasas and Tombs.”  
On symbols in traditional art see:
http://www.studiesincomparativereligion.com/public/articles/Symbols-by_Ananda_K_Coomaraswamy.aspx
On the minaret wall, see Robert Frost's MENDING WALL in the sidebar - see CONTEXT, 10 February 2017 below.


Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul, Sinân

Béton brut, Newport mosque


Chapel at Ronchamp



'Canons' over sacristry, La Tourette


Interior of sacristry (as seen from church)

'Canons' over lower church altars, La Tourette


Interior showing lower church altars, La Tourette


The more one ponders the ‘art’ publicity for this mosque, the more clearly do other places and buildings come to mind. The core reference that is recalled is Le Corbusier’s work. One would not hesitate to look at Corb’s projects if one was given the task of designing a religious building because his works represent the most coherently meaningful spiritual expressions of the twentieth century. Ronchamp comes to mind as the iconic chapel - spiritual place, space and light admired, loved, even idolised by many.# A new church under construction at Burleigh Heads, Queensland, seems to have looked at Corb’s chapel for guidance. But it is Corb’s work just outside Lyon, the forms, finishes, spaces and light of his monastery at La Tourette, that one recalls when browsing the Murcutt images. Here the finishes are raw, insitu concrete, the béton brut of the Brutalists, similar to that used in Murcutt’s mosque. Light is brought into various spaces using the sculptural ‘canons’ as Corb called them – projecting forms that angle to catch light to illuminate the lower church chapels, and the sacristy off the main church. The smaller sacristy canons are greater in number than their larger, more dominant shafts over the lower altars. The glass in these skylights is clear, with the colour being introduced by the painting of the interior surfaces. Murcutt uses more formal, vertical projecting forms, angular in plan, directed differently to catch the sunlight in its various phases as it passes over the Australian landscape. These light boxes, like Corb’s, are fitted with clear glass and have coloured interiors - bold red, yellow, green and blue, colours that apparently have symbolic meaning in Islam. This is difficult to confirm, but a few older mosques do have such coloured glass lighting their interiors. The primal reference for one not versed in matters Islamic is that the idea of the colours has been taken from the stained glass windows of the Christian cathedrals.


Slots lighting the La Tourette church interior


Traditional Islamic colours



Nasīr al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran



Gothic cathedral stained glass


La Tourette sacristy ceiling seen from church



Slots of light angle into Corb’s La Tourette monastery church along its walls using the same technique of colouring the splayed reveals. The colours are red, green and yellow. The large canon colours are, surprisingly, red, white and black – see: http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/la-tourette.html These are set in a blue ceiling with yellow surrounding walls. All concrete finishes are left as raw, off-form concrete surfaces. Externally the Corb canons are similarly raw concrete. Murcutt’s are a sophisticated bronze-coloured metal, and appear to be ventilated.





Murcutt's minaret

The bell tower of La Tourette is a concrete box with a bell in it, (rung by a rope hanging in a conduit leading to an internal recess in the end wall of the church: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/corbusier-renaissance-man.html ). The box form is supported high on a large triangular wall projection, very much in the same way Murcutt has shaped his minaret, a triangular, in situ concrete blade wall with the elegant Islamic golden crescent at the top.



Maison de la Culture, Firminy

One is constantly reminded of Corb’s work with the concrete and the colours that he has used frequently in his projects over the years.


Unité d’Habitation, Marseille

Shelving, La Tourette

Hedi Weber Museum, Zurich

Palace of Justice, Chandigarh


The geometry of Murcutt's roof



Murcutt explains that he has been inspired by Islamic geometry in the ceiling design. One hesitates, finding it difficult to try to understand this reference, as the work that first comes to mind is Leonard French’s beautiful ceiling in the National Gallery of Victoria.


Leonard French's NGV glass ceiling








Islamic geometry is stunning and beautifully complex in its rigorous resolution, with simple beginnings developing into marvellously intricate and complex diagrams: see - Keith Critchlow’s Islamic Patterns: An Analytical and Cosmological Approach https://www.amazon.com/Islamic-Patterns-Analytical-Cosmological-Approach/dp/0892818034 The Murcutt design seems too staccato, too scattered, too fragmented, too uneasy to reference the cohesive and calmly flowing surfaces that Islamic patterns generate. Murcutt’s somewhat awkward, stark arrangement of triangles and colours seems to lack the wholeness and inner inter-relationship that traditional patterns hold in their astonishing wonder; their completeness; their rich, fluid integrity and subtlety of hues. The ceiling at present looks more like a detail of the Leonard French glass ceiling work reproduced in part at a larger scale.


Detail of the NGV ceiling

Murcutt's mosque ceiling

Monastery, La Tourette



Elevations of the Murcutt Australian Islamic Centre are not promoted with much clarity, but one is tempted to see parts of La Tourette here too – thin, long horizontal slots and a multiplicity of vertical blades.





Does powerful work linger in one’s mind as feeling when designing, to become a supporting expression for another context? It is indeed extremely difficult to grasp matters meaningfully spiritual in forms and spaces. One hears how composers find themselves using other memorable parts and pieces of music in their own works, subconsciously. Can this happen in architecture too?


Chapel interior, Ronchamp

Ronchamp chapel towers each catch a different light

One issue lingers with some regret in this mosque. Apparently in a video on the project Murcutt can be heard justifying the increase in costs – something reportedly like nearly double the original eight million dollar budget – with the argument that it will all be worth it at the end because the mosque will be a great piece of architecture. Did he tell the NGV this too? It is not a very good promotion for architects and their reputations as it only reinforces the ‘Sydney Opera House’ cliché that an architect will cost you money for his/her own aggrandisement and indulgence, and give you something ‘different’ to suit his/her bespoke ‘genius’ vision: see - Roger Scruton quote in NOTES at end of http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2017/01/herzog-de-meuron-architecture-with-no.html


As for the references that one recalls when viewing the photographs and drawings of this project, the worry is that these are predominantly Christian expressions. One does not think of the great mosques of the world. Perhaps this experience might go towards the idea of generating a greater harmony between religions? If the Murcutt mosque can do this, perhaps it will indeed be worthwhile.


The photographer?



The architect and the light boxes:
where is his associate?*


One concern is that the architect seems only too happy to be repeatedly photographed with his work, almost as the prototypical ‘heroic’ genius looking for the due admiration and praise. This again is not a very good look, even if he did once win the Pritzker Prize. The fact that someone - Murcutt? - has illustrated an interior sketch with a figure apparently using a camera to photograph the ‘clever’ ceiling only suggests an exhibitionist role for grand display, rather than a spiritual one for intimate, inspirational contemplation offering a quiet, enriching context for worship. It is a quality that the chapel at Ronchamp captures with a gentle, genuine, solemn depth and emotional respect: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/ronchamp-windsock-of-spirit.html



It will be interesting to see the Murcutt mosque project finished. One hopes that it will be open for all to visit. There is nothing worse than being told that, as an ‘infidel’ from the west, one is not allowed to go into a mosque, no matter how much love and respect one might hold for these beautiful places and people; or that one has to go to the back door one kilometre away and pay to go into a temple precinct, (Bangkok), while local believers can stroll in past the armed guards keeping nosy tourists with their cameras at bay.


Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Inlaid marble and stone floral decoration


On beautiful mosques: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/the-most-beautiful-building-in-world.html and http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/abu-dhabi-hotel-mosque-heritage-centre.html The Abu Dhabi mosque is simply stunning in its wonder; its magnificence. Murcutt’s mosque is extremely restrained when compared with this place of worship. Is this a result of his Modernism that knows not what to do with decoration? - see: http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2017/01/herzog-de-meuron-architecture-with-no.html Has the glory of Islam been squeezed by the restraints of Christianity – Catholicism and Protestantism? Have the prejudices of Modernism reshaped the magic of light and colour into forms acceptable to this International architect’s eye, his particular preferences rather than encourage an attempt to embody the essential meaning of traditional religious symbols? - see note in sidebar on Cathedrals and Symbolism. One would not like to think that the local ‘Aussie’ culture has encouraged things to be ‘watered’ down.



Australian Islamic Centre, Newport

Let’ see it finished before we jump to conclusions. The mosque was due to be completed 'late in 2016.' It is now 28 January 2017: any day soon?





#
For the power and influence of Corb’s Ronchamp chapel, see the unusual truck rest area inspired by this place of worship:
http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/ronchamp-rest-areas-and-meaning.html

MORE IMAGES



'Architectural' view of the light boxes

There seem to be no limits to getting the 'architectural' shot


Roof by night

Beautiful graphics in the Newport mosque



Traditional mosques


Nasīr al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran


Auburn Gallipoli Mosque dome interior
for the astonishing array of dome interiors

Islamic patterns



Cleaning a glass roof that has a defined, precise geometry similar to the beginnings of Islamic patterning
(Building cleaners, Dresden, Germany)









Martin Lings on Islamic art:
'One cannot marvel enough.'

Le Corbusier
forms, light & colours

Refectory, La Tourette

La Tourette, western elevation

The corridor leading to the church, La Tourette

Main church space, La Tourette


Courtyard, La Tourette


Lower church chapels, La Tourette

Refectory window, La Tourette

Sacristry, La Tourette

Monk's cell, La Tourette

Palace of Justice, Chandigarh


'Architecture is the masterly, correct, and magnificent play of masses brought together in light.'
Le Corbusier

*
NOTE ON ELEVLI PLUS

This project was designed by Glenn Murcutt in association with the Melbourne architectural firm, Elevli Plus, but very little is said about this firm in the published promotional material on this new Australian Islamic Centre at Newport which is included in the Elevli Plus list of projects. One is constantly presented with the words ‘Murcutt’s Mosque’ as in the title of this piece, and Murcutt is frequently photographed by himself with his ‘masterpiece.’ Elevli Plus is treated like a silent partner. Elevli Plus should be acknowledged for its role in this project.

For information on this firm see: http://www.elevliplus.com.au/about/

ABOUT US
Elevli Plus is a growing international architecture practice focused on the creation and delivery of inspiring and engaging architecture and interior art forms. The design studio and leading international design team headquartered in Melbourne with offices in Sydney, Istanbul and Nairobi offer an array of minimalist and distinctive modern architecture and interior design services. This unique and talented team, with vast experience, is able to bring innovation and creativity to each project with the innate ability to tackle complex and multifaceted design briefs and constructs. 

THE DESIGN STUDIO AND INTERNATIONAL TEAM IS SUPPORTED BY ARCHITECTS, INTERIOR DESIGNERS, TECHNICAL, MARKETING AND ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF HEADQUARTERED IN THE MELBOURNE OFFICE.


HAKAN ELEVLI
PRINCIPAL
Hakan has previously been a partner with the international firm, Peddle Thorp Architects before becoming the Principal of Elevli Plus. During this time, he has fine-tuned his creative and technical skills working on a broad range of projects. These include prestigious residential commissions, high-rise towers, commercial developments, community and educational facilities, sporting facilities and resorts. in addition to these Australian projects, Hakan has significant international experience with a range of diverse projects located in New Zealand, China, Vietnam and Turkey. Hakan also collaborates with acclaimed architect Glenn Murcutt to produce visionary designs.


Newport Mosque and Community Centre, Glenn Mercutt Collaboration, Newport, Victoria

As a collaborative design with Glenn Murcutt, this Turkish Islamic structure combines all of the necessary functional requirements of a building of this type with unique Australian characteristics. The meeting of two cultures has been successfully achieved through the many creative and intricate design elements present throughout the structure, delivering a truly unique architectural outcome.

COMMENT
The blurb in the Elevli Plus site is interesting. It defines the Islamic Centre as 'Turkish' and, like the NGV, it declares the project to be a success even before it has been completed.



ARTICLES

For more on the Murcutt/Elevli Australian Islamic Centre, see the following articles:








Replacing the minaret is a dramatic wall of in situ concrete, soaring towards the street and entry to a height of 10 metres while offering up a gold crescent at its pinnacle. Replacing the dome is a flat roof, punctuated by a series of 96 triangular lanterns or skylights – each painted in one of four colours associated with Islam and angled to track the sun, imbuing the space with different colours throughout the day and seasons. Replacing the closed garden and mosque is an open, transparent space allowing those praying to see out and those outside to see in – designed in line with the community's desire for those of all faiths to feel welcome, to wander in and spend time in the mosque, to learn of Islam and Muslim Australia.

The mosque, the prayer space itself, is apparently to be open to the street for all to see in and out.

"I've tried to think through many of the issues that I, as an Australian, find threatening in the form of architecture that's sometimes built in the name of Islam in this country. Having experienced life in the Arab world as a non-Muslim, I recognised in myself the things that I found very difficult to come to terms with. And I felt other Australians would feel the same and that I would pursue ideals that would modify, without losing completely, the idea of what various elements in the Islamic tradition mean."
Gone are the minarets and domes commonly associated with mosques, along with the impenetrable facade and closed off courtyard, as Murcutt and Elevli moved to address symbols potentially representing negative associations for non-Muslims. "It was important we create an architecture to which both Islamic and Australian communities would respond positively."

The ambition appears to be to demystify the mosque, to open it up to unfettered public scrutiny.
This begs some serious questions:
Can spiritual space be demystified and still maintain its uniquely sacred quality?
Can sacred space be a part of the street, the everyday, available to every passerby?
Can prayer be a public matter that can engage the street?
Is prayer a 'shop window' spectacle to educate the public?
Would the chapel at Ronchamp be the same with a full glass wall to allow the outsiders to be involved/informed?
What might a fully glazed western wall on a cathedral do for its presence and the worshippers?

One only has to consider how the high glazed walls of the Abedian School of Architecture Forum Space – the public lecture room of the school at Bond University on the Gold Coast in southeast Queensland – create nuisance distractions and reflections for those trying to concentrate on the presentation: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/the-nordic-architecture-symposium-aalto.html Passersby might be informed about the events occurring inside, but the attendees do not need to see these folk or be aware of their comings and goings, their daily intrigues, or their quirky habits that are all on full, 'picture-window' display. They are there to listen to the presentation and look at the images accompanying it, nothing more. One can only think how much more critical it might be for prayer, for meditation to be isolated from everyday public spaces and events, the mutual supervision and distractions that are involved.

As for the overhead lighting that the designers of the mosque have spent so much effort developing, one has to be concerned about the light flooding in through the open glass wall open to the street. The glass walls at the Abedian School Forum Space offer a surplus of light that can become just too much glare for images to be seen clearly, or for ordinary physical comfort. What might the impact of a glazed wall be on the ceiling lighting; on the comfort those praying? One can recall how dark and isolated Corb's chapel and church spaces are; how black the interior of Chartres cathedral can be - see:





The intent of the design appears to be based on the idea that public supervision of things differently sacred and personal will only improve matters for the Muslims in Australia; as if exhibitionism will solve the problem of mystery rather than tolerance and understanding. One wonders how many cameras might be allowed to photograph the building during prayer? How will disinterested observers be managed? There is something strangely naive in this proposition that needs to be looked at more closely once the building is completed: it has something to do with respect and discernment, the lack of it. Will the complex become a permanent NGV exhibition?






Perhaps one needs to ponder the words on the back of Amanda Curtin's novel, Elemental (UWA Publishing, 2013):
It has taken a lifetime for me to see that the more afraid people are of the darkness, the further into it they will flee.

10 February 2017
CONTEXT

The address of the Australian Islamic Centre is: 23/31 Blenheim Rd, Newport VIC 3015. Looking at Google Maps and Google Earth, one is able to see the context that is always cleverly cut out of the formal renderings and photographs of the project that present the building alone, as an ‘art’ object precisely framed to exclude any suggestion of surrounding place, be this developed or undeveloped - suburban, industrial, recreational, or otherwise. So what is the context? How does the new, much-discussed Centre fit into its particular site? After all, it was Murcutt who spoke about ‘touching the ground lightly,’ suggesting an aboriginal sensitivity to place, context and landscape in his work.

The map indicates that the Centre is positioned near: Altona Lakes Public Golf Course; Altona Magic Soccer Club; Altona Badmington Centre; Altona Miniature Railway; the Paisley Drain; Mobil Refinery Altona; Mobil Terminal Altona; with Bunnings Altona and Altona North Officeworks just up the road; the Williamstown Soccer Club on Kororoit Creek nearby; and the suburban Newport Gardens development wrapped around its local Primary School directly opposite.

The note on Frost’s Mending Wall in the text is asking just what the context might be: What I was walling in or walling out. The neighbouring sites contiguous with the Centre, that are identified on the map, are the Altona Lakes Public Golf Course and the Altona Miniature Railway. It is the Miniature Railway amusement centre that is divided from the mosque precinct by the minaret wall. This probably explains why no context has been illustrated on the far side of this wall other than a suggestion of idyllic open fields and distant mountains.

The mosque seems to sit on the edge, in between a variety of very different, contrasting development precincts, at their collision point, almost in a no man’s land. It is a location that sadly makes it appear likewise in the Australian cultural milieu. One has come to know mosques in the Muslim world as being an integral part of a place, beautifully entwined in the rich, everyday fabric of the city: seamlessly with a special, but ordinary wonder. It is a true shame that we do not appear to be comfortable with a mosque being similarly located in our Australian cities.

The photograph published with Roger Walker's comment (see below) carefully frames out the neighbour;
the Altona Miniature Railway Amusement Centre

POSTED COMMENT
In the presence of a masterpiece
Posted by Roger on November 29, 2016 · Leave a comment
Every once in a while as I walk through a building that I have never visited before, I am overwhelmed by the feeling that I am in the presence of a masterpiece.
This is what I sensed last weekend during a visit that was part of an architectural tour of Melbourne. Adding to the sense of wonder was the knowledge that my colleagues and I were among the first to experience a building that, when complete, is bound to grace the cover of every architectural magazine in the world.
The subject of my admiration is the largest work by Australia’s only Pritzker prizewinning architect Glenn Murcutt – a contemporary mosque in Newport, a 20 minute train ride from central Melbourne.
http://www.rogerwalker.co.nz/rog-on-beauty/

Dare one question the proposition that ‘success’ is being published on ‘the cover of every architectural magazine in the world’? Is this the message of the phantom photographer? One might have hoped that achievement and recognition would have more to do with the everyday experience of the building as sacred space, as a meaningfully enriching place, rather than with the scope of the distribution of spectacular pictorial presentations. Let’s hope that the Centre does not become just a ‘display’ mosque.




Mies van der Rohe Farnsworth House

11 February 2017
ORIGINS


As more images of the nearly-completed Australian Islamic Centre are published, it becomes clear that the work of Le Corbusier is not the only reference that comes to the eye. One is now seeing similarities with the work of Mies van der Rohe; in particular the Farnsworth House. What is of interest here is that the early work of Glenn Murcutt, (that of Hakan Elevli is less well known), was very much styled on the Mies ethic – open steel and glass houses. Some see his later colloquial ‘Aussie’ style that has captured the imagination of the world – oddly even architects in the Shetland Islands yearn to do similar work, even it that climate! - as basically being the same Miesian philosophy clad in corrugated iron. If one looks closely at this work, it, like that of Mies, is laboured in every precise detail. It is starkly different to the Australian ‘shed’ architecture that it seems to try to refer to. The bush shed has the straightforward, casual ‘she’ll be right, mate!’ attitude to its assembly, making and detailing, where things improvised and ad hoc are adapted with a naive and open honesty, and add to the particular feel of place that has been popularised as the ‘Australian’ character.


c.f. also Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye


13 February 2017
A few images of the context from Google Earth Street View:


AIC adjacent to Williamstown in Melbourne's west





AIC on left


AIC on right

Suburban housing opposite AIC site

Mobil Refinery Altona on left, on other side of railway line

View along Blenheim Road - AIC on left

End of Blenheim Road at railway line

Altona Miniature Railway Amusement Centre







AIC on left



The images change one's perceptions of the Newport mosque. It becomes a place with less of an 'arty' urban image; more of a building in a bushland setting. One is reminded of the early mosques in country Australia like the one at Maree. This is a small building; but the shearing shed is a complex with a similar scale to that of the AIC in open countryside. The historic shed at Menindee comes to mind - a large building in open countryside; and a development with an 'Australian' character - 'leaves of iron' - popularised by Murcutt.

Australia's first mosque at Maree, SA, built 1861





There appears to be an enigma here. Instead of the traditional mosque boldly reaching tall into the glory of the cosmos with minarets and domes, while declaring its presence rhythmically throughout the day, here the broad, high brilliance of the Australian sky and the brash, bland emptiness of the Australian landscape, both randomly modified by the usual tawdry, ad hoc developments, dominate modern mosque buildings. The mythologised Murcutt approach of 'caring for particular place' has not seen any familiar local references or known religious symbolism adapted or adopted for this project. Rather Murcutt and Elevli seem to have chosen to manipulate modern Meisian/Corbusian materials and forms in an attempt to create new images and symbols for a subdued presence of sacred place, the silent mosque in modern Australia.
Both the forgetting of the traditional forms related to indigenous landscape, and the avoidance of traditional symbols, appear to have left a quiet tension in this project - a naive, native void; a certain contrived, showy hollowness. Both have something naturally necessary about them: the Australian bush character of the shed, and the cosmic essence of the symbol; both are more than mere inventions of interest and difference to be modified or ignored at one's whim. There is a core quality in these aspects of feeling and form, an enriching coherence that gets forgotten at one's risk - the risk of alienation: where sophisticated, international concepts and forms are located in the bush, aligning with, and reinforcing the struggle to declare meaning as bespoke, 'creative' inventions that catch the eye uniquely.
When architecture does engage both of these aspects of the past with a modest, humble commitment, it can give an ego-free magnificence, all as seen in things traditional, an experience beautifully expressed by Martin Lings as being a state in which 'one cannot marvel enough.'

How might one describe the AIC experience?

20 February 2017
see: THE AIM OF ART in the sidebar.

24 February 2017
For more on the symbolism of the mosque, see: https://www.slideshare.net/jyotiahlawat1654/symbolism-in-islamic-architecture


17 March 2017


On the street-facing glass wall that has been deliberately incorporated to make the events in the prayer hall more 'transparent' to outsiders, one wonders if Murcutt has realised the physicality and direction of prayer. Is there a danger of there being some surprising misinterpretations?


22 September 2017

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