Woven Mesh Windows Of The Iron Mosque Balance Nostalgia and Modernism
The city of Putrajaya, named after the first Prime Minister of the country, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, forges nature and technology into great forms of architectural expression. It is no coincidence that the last word jaya means perfection. The approach in Putrajaya is reflected in prime examples of Malaysian Islamic prestigious buildings, scenic parks, artificial lakes and waterways. Following an unspoken master plan the city combines both historic and national structural styles with ultra-modern materials. In addition to the Istana Melawati royal palace and the over 200 feet high, pillar-shaped Millennium Monument, the Putra Mosque, with its 380 foot high minaret - the highest in the whole of Southeast Asia - ranks as one of the must-see tourist sights. However, the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque is the prominent landmark in the new seat of government. Built right next to the Millennium Monument at Putra Lake, the sacred building known colloquially as the Iron Mosque, proclaims the presence and strength of Islam. The unique cooling system, which rendered air-conditioning and fans superfluous thanks to GKD's Escale stainless steel mesh, lends the building its special atmospheric quality. What's more, the semi-transparent spiral mesh provides worshippers with reliable protection from the sun and rain.
With the completion of the second main mosque in Putrajaya, the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque, located just a mile from the Putra Mosque, the city gained a new landmark. Larger, more modern and considerably different from the usual design, the Iron Mosque sets contemporary standards. It owes its name to a structure 70% of which is made from steel. The aim of the planners and contractors was for the building to characterize three design principles: simplicity, airiness and transparency. A good five years after the start of construction in April 2005, the finished mosque is now a potent symbol of religious identity. A modern interpretation of Islamic architecture, its nearly 79 ft-high facade characterizes a purist steel structure with typical geometric ornamentation.
A filigree facade made from stainless steel spiral mesh visually connects the rectangular openings of the meandering structure. Three of these elements each were joined together on site, with the result that they raise with the height of the facade and windows in an optically seamless manner. Secured almost invisibly using hook bolts, they express the building contractors' desire for simplicity, transparency and openness to dialogue. Depending on where you are standing and where the light is falling, the fabric mantle has a semi-transparent/opaque or a metallic, shimmering or even a monochrome, light-grey appearance. Projecting shadowy outlines, they reflect mankind and nature in its environment, distinctively conveying to the outside world the harmony of co-existence, which is also represented inside the mosque by the common prayer. At night purposefully staged lighting brings the transparency to life in a burst of illumination.
In addition to this symbolic appearance, the robust, maintenance-free mesh also fulfils extremely complex technical functions. The plans of architect Nik Arshad Nik Mohamed made provision for natural air-conditioning in the main prayer hall, which offers space for 20,000 worshippers. In his draft he did away with glass windows and developed the idea of a mesh skin acting as a protective membrane. The prevailing tropical climate in Malaysia with high temperatures all year round and heavy rainfall in spring and autumn proved a particular challenge in terms of finding a suitable material: the GKD Escale 7x1 spiral mesh met the high demands for both transparency and technology at the same time. Corrosion and heatproof, easy to maintain, non-flammable and resistant to mechanical influences, the stainless steel mesh was chosen primarily for its almost unlimited service life and low life-cycle costs.
However, what was crucial in terms of its use was the laminating effect of the mesh, thereby protecting against drafts while at the same time letting the cooling wind penetrate the whole building as a pleasantly even flow. In this way comfortable, natural air-conditioning, which renders the use of air-conditioning systems and fans superfluous, is created throughout the mosque. Due to the window openings spread across the whole height of the facade, the mesh is proving an effective means of protection against sun and rain. At the same time the transparent woven structure, together with the soft radiance of daylight, underlines the meditative atmosphere in the mosque.