British Influence On Malaysian Vernacular Architecture And Modern Mosques

1381 words - 6 pages

Positioned across two separate, immediate islands, Malaysia has always been primed for a strong foreign influence through rich international trade. The influences of Hindu India, Christian Europe, and the Islamic Middle East, converged to create a diverse populous. However, Malaysia's exposure also granted vulnerability and eventual colonialism under multiple countries, most notably Great Britain. Through Britain's tenure, Western and Eastern ideology and design fused together to bring fourth major changes that would forever leave a distinctive mark on Malaysian history, design, and culture. This paper presents a comparative analysis of Britain's influence on mosques built during different periods in the Malaysian history and analyzes the changes in the mosque architecture between vernacular, colonial, and modern periods.
Traditional Middle Eastern Mosques, known as hypostyle and originally widespread throughout Malaysia, generally consisted of a minaret1 calling tower, a court yard, domes, flat roofs, and a mihrab2, all constructed from either sand or stone. The heavy weight of the sand and stone was often supported by long rows of slender, embellished columns. As hypostyle Mosques began to dilapidate from the harsh tropical weather in Malaysia, with flat roofs flooding and sand constructed minarets crumbling, Indonesian architecture began to take over. With heavy rainfall and warm sunshine occurring all year round, the design of Indonesian-Malaysian, vernacular architecture mosques reflected most of the characteristics of the traditional and tropical Malay houses. Four major factors including climatic conditions, availability of building materials, craftsmanship and ethnic background influenced design. In response to the tropical environment, vernacular mosques used drastically pitched roofs to enable rain water to run off quickly3, stilts to raise the mosques above ground level to avoid floods4; and many openings including louvered windows, fanlights and carving panels to allow a natural cross ventilation of air5. Vernacular mosques can be distinguished by their multi-tiered, edged roofs with decorative ridges and blue or glazed clay tiles, octagonal minarets and differing square and circular buildings. These design choices reflect Malaysia's more mystical interpretation of the Quran, as the different shapes of buildings represent the different stages of Islamic spirits rising with prayer2. Building materials such as timber, bamboo, bricks, stone, clay tiles and attap are widely used in the vernacular style mosques due to their abundance in Malaysia. Vernacular styled Malay mosques, along with most Malay houses and structures, portray high levels of craftsmanship6. This can be seen in the windows, fanlights, carving wall panels, fascia boards and well-designed mimbar7 with intricate flower motifs. Such craftsmanship generally reflects the owners' status and wealth8, particularly for Malay houses. The more wooden, curvaceous, colorful,...

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