Blue Mosque of Malaysia

A landmark building incorporates modern materials into timeless tradition.
25 July, 2017
The full name of the mosque that has pride of place in the Malaysian city of Shah Alam is Masjid Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah.
That name harkens back to the legacy of the man who commissioned the mosque back in the 1970s, but for what may seem obvious reasons, most people just call it the "Blue Mosque." The nickname comes from its distinctive dome, whose majestic blue color that can be seen for miles, as well as the mosque's peaceful interior.

The mosque is one of the largest in the world and was built for a capacity of 24,000 people. It's part of a site that includes the Garden of Islamic Arts, a cultural museum, while the mosque has its own art galleries, library, conference room and halls for seminars and religious study. Above them all is the dome, measuring 51.2 meters in diameter and constructed primarily from light, durable aluminium. It rises 107 meters into the air, and is believed to still be the largest mosque dome in Malaysia. The building was designed by Datuk Baharuddin Abu Kassim, an architect for other mosques as well.
From the outside, the 30-year-old dome is designed with white lattice-like panels across it, creating diamond patterns against the blue and catching the glow in the mosque compound's lighting at night. It is surrounded at each corner by four slim minaret towers, also partly in blue, that rise 142.2 meters.

From the inside, white wedges of wall taper toward the center until they appear almost like pillars holding up the dome at the center. Intricate Arabic calligraphies are inscribed in the center, in one example of how centuries of Muslim tradition are fused into the modern geometry and patterns. The building reflects elements of both Middle Eastern and Malay design, with a consistency that moves from the translucent blue-diamond roof of the soaring entrance across the floors and into the sanctuary.
The light casts a soft blue across the interior to create a serene space for prayer, worship and study. It's on the inside that the designers made extensive use of aluminium mesh panels and screens. They line the interior of the windows, casting patterns across the rooms and floors, and line the hallways and approaches to the mosque. The aluminium screens used in the spiritual setting cast an aura of their own, and seem more like a graceful veil to protect the experience than ordinary latticework does. Yet they are a critical system for keeping the building cool, and are as functional as they are beautiful. The building also uses concrete support pillars designed as funnels to redirect and collect roof rainwater.

Although an Egyptian artist completed the calligraphy and antique marble was imported from Turkey, the mosque keeps an Asian identity. The minbar, which serves as the altar or pulpit in the Muslim tradition, was handcrafted by Kelantanese artisans – an ethnic Malaysian group in the country's northeast. The woods used there and in the ceiling also came from Southeast Asian forests. Balau, a hardwood stronger than teak, and the yellow-toned ramin are native to Malaysia and the region. The marble was used to build the mihrab, a semicircular alcove built into the mosque wall at the point nearest to Mecca. At the Blue Mosque, the marble façade soars cathedral-like above its opening.
Image: GoWhere
The mosque also features gifts of its founder, who donated four crystal chandeliers and an antique clock to the building effort. Other furnishings include chandeliers from Germany and carpeting from Iran.
Banner image: Hafizismail