Musolla by Ong&Ong wins Cityscape 2011 Islamic Architecture Award
The principal architects of this Eco Park are Tan Kee Keat and Ahmad Syazli Mat Husin from Ong&Ong (Malaysia). Both architects envision a religious building design that is not solely symbolic but also promotes the idea of a Musolla as a social place that connects people, enabling them to share and exchange knowledge. This is achieved with the provision of adaptable spaces throughout the building.
Inspired by Arabic calligraphy, the Musolla takes its form from ‘MIM’ the first Arabic letter in the word Musolla which means ‘a place for praying’. Starting at the ‘tail’ tip one ritually ascends the long ramp to the main prayer hall from the garden embarking on this ‘path’ towards enlightenment. The main prayer hall cantilevers above a body of water - the purest of spaces.
‘MIM’ is one of the mysterious letters in Quran, many of the chapters of the Quran start off with specific Arabic letters which it nowhere explains. One of which is Al- Baqarah; which starts with; Alif, Lam and Mim. Notice the simple stroke of its cursive form; turbulent in the beginning and straight towards the end; it literally depicts the journey in which each individual perseveres through life. The cursive written form of Mim illustrates the essence of finding clarity after confronting hardship. Notice this subtle message being conveyed when the alphabet is being written.
Placed on an uninterrupted lawn the musolla is more a sculpture/pavilion/art installation in the landscape than a building proper. Unfinished concrete, gabion walls and timber conveys raw truthfulness. The screen combines three Arabic patterns with different density, arranged in a khufi calligraphy style, forming the one of the most famous surah in the Quran, Surah Al-Ikhlas (the Fidelity) aka At-Tawhid (Monotheism). It is a short declaration of tauhid, God’s absolute unity, consisting of 4 sentences.
The arrangement brings interesting play of light into the main prayer hall. The idea is that the Musolla should not function solely as a place for prayers but also a community space which allows for gatherings and events, sort of a community centre, which the architect believes is what a true mosque should be.
There is also an attempt to break away from the typical notion (in Malaysia) of how a mosque should look (usually associated with dome like structures). When seen solely as sacred places, Mosques/Musolla will naturally take a more symbolic form. However, it is the designer’s intention to bring back the original concept of a Mosques/Musolla as a community centre as it was back in the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) era. The design of the Eco Park Musolla allows a more flexible usage of space.
The Eco Park Musolla sits like a sculpture. It is a building that minimises its footprint, features natural ventilation and natural lighting. The facilities provided also responds to the lifestyle of the Malaysian community that includes a lot of social gatherings (kenduri) for numerous occasions (i.e weddings, deaths, celebrations).