Study – Islamic Architecture in the Malay Peninsula – Part 3 – European Classical

Now the Eid celebrations here in Brunei is slowly going to a stop, I can now resume the blogging, especially now I have a few days off and some spare time to spend time adding a few articles to this blog.

This article is a continuation of the Islamic Architecture in the Malay Peninsula  series where I try to categorize the styles of Islamic architecture, particularly mosques, in the Malay Peninsula. according to period. In the last past of the series I was focusing on Sino-Eclectic style where mosques share similarities and shows apparent influences from Chinese architectural features.

This article focuses on the European Classical style, integrated to Islamic architecture in the Malay archipelago. This particular style is mostly used in around 1800’s, where Europeans, particularly the English traveled into the Malay archipelago in the interest of business and finding settlements as well as colonies.

The European Classical style refers to the style that derived from Greco-Roman period architecture, also known as Classical architecture , where it was fashionable in architectural terms somewhere around the 1800s , post-Renaissance Europe. The Greco-Roman style features Columns primarily as well as elaborate ceilings and cornices, amongst other. This style is carried to the Malay Archipelago by the European settlers late in the 1800’s when it became favoured because of its uniqueness especially by the royalty.

Taken by Terence Ong in June 2006

Masjid Negeri Sultan Abu Bakar, the State Mosque of Johor, Malaysia

When mosques were built in this style they show characteristics that differs from other prior styles used. One of the characteristics is the usage of elaborate, European style decorations such as cornices, and plasterwork around windows. There are also extensive use of semi-circle or flat arches particularly for portals, above doors and as windows, similar to the ones found in any post-renaissance buildings in Europe. Masonry are preferred in this style while ceilings uses timber trusses as a nod to English tradition.

The main building of the mosque are usually built on a foundation of concrete a meter above ground and tiled. The main prayer hall is usually square in plan with gabled roofing in the shape of a pyramid, not unlike the Traditional Vernacular style. However, the difference between the two styles lies in the roof where Traditional Vernacular style usually has 3 tiered roofs, a nod to the older Hindu/Buddhist influenced style, as well as topped with finials that resembles those found on Balinese or Javanese roofs. The European Classical, however, usually features a single tired Gable roof topped with Islamic moon-and-star finial.

The Minaret of Sultan Ibrahim Mosque, Muar, Johor Malaysia

Minarets in this style differs from any other styles in the Malay Archipelago. Minarets could be square in shape, but it is not uncommon to find circular or even hexagonal shaped ones. as with the main building of the mosque, they also feature arches both flat and semi circular ones for the doors and windows, as well as extensive usage of decorative cornices. One mosque in this style, The Sultan Ibrahim Jamek in Muar, Johor, features a circular (or cylindrical shaped) minaret with decoration and bay windows that it somehow resembled a bell tower for a basilica. The minarets are topped usually with European style domes (the ones similar to domes in the Victorian architecture) or in some cases triangular roofs, with typical Islamic finial of crescent moon and star.

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2 Comments

Filed under Study

2 responses to “Study – Islamic Architecture in the Malay Peninsula – Part 3 – European Classical

  1. Jasmin Abd Wahab

    SAlaam. Any ideas on Masjid Kapitan Keling of George town, Penang?

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