An intriguing exhibition explores Glenn Murcutt’s unconventional take on Islamic architecture
MELBOURNE – A decade in the making, the Australian Islamic Centre in Hobsons Bay, Melbourne, is the latest example of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Glenn Murcutt’s famously thorough and protracted approach to architecture. Designed in collaboration with local firm Elevli Plus – under the auspices of Islamic architects, imams and the local Muslim community – the nearly completed project seeks to create a contemporary space of worship and communion through a unique but reverent reimagining of the religion’s traditional architectural language.
Prior to the opening of the mosque, the public can catch a glimpse of the architect’s design process for the building by visiting the Glenn Murcutt exhibition Architecture of Faith at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. Archival materials on display include models, photographs, blueprints and drawings, 200 of which are original sketches by Murcutt.
Windows in the wing that houses the show feature a geometric pattern that reveals the most prominent aspect of Murcutt’s design: a roof highlighted by a cluster of golden triangular prisms intended to imitate lanterns. Lined with multicoloured glass, the prisms admit gems of light into the mosque, which change with the movement of the sun. Not only unusual in terms of secular architecture, the prisms also replace a mosque’s minaret and dome: structures that conventionally serve as beacons visible from afar. While the elimination of these elements is not entirely unprecedented – it has already been used in the design of other modern mosques – it is among the more controversial aspects of the centre. The exhibition features a full-scale replica of one roof prism, allowing visitors to engage in a closer dialogue with Murcutt’s spiritual symbol for the 21st century.
Glenn Murcutt's exhibition Architecture of Faith is currently showing at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia until 19 February 2017.
Photos Sean Fennessy