Transitional Identities in Mosque Architecture

Within the abounding layers of the Australian built fabric exists the constructs of a diasporic and multi-national Muslim population. The mosque, in particular, serves to be a significant moment as a means for identity – both for the Islamic population for which the building facilitates as the centre for a religious community; and for the multicultural society into which the mosque is integrated. Responding to a multitude of negotiations, mosque architecture lends itself as a potent site of intercultural exchange that extends the roles and expressions of a traditional building typology.

The Masjid Al Taqwa Mosque that locates in the suburb of Mirrabooka, Western Australia was developed in 1997 as a response to an increased demand for a Muslim prayer place in the northern suburbs of Perth.[1] Set behind a large cement courtyard, the building presents a grand double storey brick veneer construction with the prayer hall and abulation areas located at ground level and ancillary community spaces and classrooms on the first level.[2]

The borrowing from diverse forms is most evident in the masonry construction and formwork.Most notably, the repetition of pentagonal thresholds that puncture the front façade alludes to a distinctive Mayan form of the corbel arch. [3] These thresholds use a corbeling construction technique which works in the way of offsetting successive courses of brick at the spring line, so that they project towards the archway’s centre from each supporting side until the bricks meet at the apex of the archway. [4]

Besides the arched form, the symbolic element of the crescent-topped hemisphere dome further confirms the building as a mosque. Modern advancements in architecture have allowed for domes to be prefabricated and ready to be installed on-site with low labour costs. Evidently, the Masjid Al Taqwa Mosque uses a fibreglass dome – “pie” shaped sections are bolted together to create the dome and it is then fixed to the top of the structure to where it attaches to the top of the double-storey volumes. [5]

The reinterpretation of more common architectural conventions in the Masjid Al Taqwa Mosque, such as the corbel arch and the prefabricated fibreglass dome are minute constituents that suggest that the of architectural symbolisms that form the Islamic mosque identity are ever-transitional in appearance and form. The identity of the Australian-Islamic community provides opportunity for the interpretation within tradition, as mosque architecture draws on sources and possibilities as diverse as the nation-wide communities it serves. In the case of the Masjid Al Taqwa Mosque, the familiar archetypes of the dome and the repetitive archways are interpreted in accordance with the circumstances of their construction as well as the ambitions of the community to position itself overtly within the urban fabric of Australian society.

Oleg Grabar’s summary of the relationship between Islam and its architecture resonates with the case of the Masjid Al Taqwa Mosque: “there never will be an answer to the correct way of designing within any one culture or to classify and evaluate whatever creation one contemplates.” [6]

 

Bibliography:

Australian Muslims Community Network “Mirrabooka – Masjid Al Taqwa” Accessed September 20, 2017. http://www.aussiemuslims.net/index.php?option=com_sobi2&sobi2Task=sobi2Details&catid=15&sobi2Id=1&Itemid=51.

Britannica “Corbel Architecture” Accessed September 20, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/technology/corbel

Grabar, Oleg. Understanding Islamic Architecture (London: Routledge Curzon, 2002), 45.

Masjid Al Taqwa: Noorul Islam Society “Services” Accessed September 20, 2017.

http://altaqwa.org.au/index.php/en/

Needhi Fibreglass “Fabricated FRP Domes” Assessed September 20, 2017. http://www.needhifrpindia.com/fabricated-frp-domes.html#fabricated-frp-domes

 

Image source:

  1. Masjid Al Taqwa Mirrabooka Facebook Page, accessed September 14, 2017,
    https://www.facebook.com/masjidaltaqwamirrabooka/

 

  1. KB, “My Life in Pengkhlan Chepa” WordPress, 2009, http://mylifeinkelantan.blogspot.com.au/2011_09_01_archive.html

 

[1] Australian Muslims Community Network “Mirrabooka – Masjid Al Taqwa” Accessed September 20, 2017. http://www.aussiemuslims.net/index.php?option=com_sobi2&sobi2Task=sobi2Details&catid=15&sobi2Id=1&Itemid=51

[2] Masjid Al Taqwa: Noorul Islam Society “Services” Accessed September 20, 2017. http://altaqwa.org.au/index.php/en/

[3] Britannica “Corbel Architecture” Accessed September 20, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/technology/corbel

[4] Ibid.

[5] Needhi Fibreglass “Fabricated FRP Domes” Assessed September 20, 2017. http://www.needhifrpindia.com/fabricated-frp-domes.html#fabricated-frp-domes

[6] Oleg Grabar Understanding Islamic Architecture (London: Routledge Curzon, 2002), 45.