No. 250 . 03 August 2005 
ArchitectureWeek
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Modern Mosque

by Robert Such

"It doesn't look like a mosque," said the Muslim woman when I asked for street directions to the Assyafaah Mosque in Singapore. Designed by Singapore-based Forum Architects, the mosque's architecture breaks with tradition. "It's modern," said the woman.

The domeless four-story mosque stands in a neighborhood of highrise residential buildings on the north side of the island. On the morning I arrived, the temperature and humidity were already rising. Thankfully, the mosque is open to the elements, and a cooling breeze accompanied me on my exploration of the interior.

Tropical climatic conditions were not the architects' only concern when they started designing the mosque for the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS). The city's high population density and ethnic complexity mean that Singaporeans "have to relate to each other in a harmonious, or at the very least, tolerant manner," says Forum Architects principal Tan Kok Hiang.

"So I am interested in relieving buildings of artificial or contrived boundaries," Tan explains. "The architecture should provide as few barriers as possible to the community at large. A Malay design would not make a Chinese convert feel at home. Middle-Eastern imagery would be too alien to our culture. Its design had to sit comfortably in a multiracial, multireligious country. And it also had to signal to the Muslim community that it is a mosque."   >>>

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