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The Architectural Message of Masjid Istiqlal

Masjid Istiqlal

STORY BY Gunawan Tjahjono 

Istiqlal Mosque is neither modest, nor extravagant. It compromises The Monas’ crossing axis with an open veranda, the Qibla axis with its main building, and the vertical axis with its dome and tower. It stands tall to welcome the worshippers with 5-storey-pillars lining up to reveal the city scale. The upward pillars ascend to reach the sky, blocked only by the flat roof above them. At a glance, these pillars seem to wrap a cube-shaped building.

Those pillars outline the wrapping box of the main building, continuing to the open veranda signified by a line of shorter pillars. They then encircle two stony courtyards, culminating at the sole tower of this complex. The whole hall is used only for praying, therefore the worshippers first need to climb down the stairs to cleanse their sins, reflect upon themselves, and then one more time climb up to surrender totally to God Almighty. The rituals might seem simple, but self-preparation is regarded as an effort and this fact is strongly believed by the architect F. Silaban.

The worshippers are warmly welcomed through all directions by a masrahbiya veranda, where they can deeply inhale the ambiance of the prayer hall, and immersed themselves into a sea of fellow worshippers. Then they are greeted by the main entrance hall that is emphasized by a short tower with the shape of a three quarter onion perched on an eight-sided seating. From there, they are able to go ahead to the main hall of the mosque which is surrounded by 12 pillars supporting the semi-spherical roof with no stem. The roof consists of tetrahedron intertwined into an Arabesque pattern. Unfortunately the lack of adequate lighting, due to unavailability of any openings, gets in the way of admiring the beauty of this house of worship. The supporting pillars of the dome guide the wandering eyes of the worshippers to the top, the floor steer them back to the earth. Through the marbled wall, they can see the direction of the Qibla, and that is where they have to bow their heads.

Splendour spreads throughout F. Silaban’s masterpiece of a mosque. Inside the large hall, people are willing to surrender their lives, indulged by the breezy wind. Even though the whole construction is dominated by straight vertical lines, at the end of the main block there is always a horizontal line cutting off the perpendicular and cubical patterns that occupy the main entrance hall. Those features are often found in F. Silaban’s other great works.

This writing was featured in 6th Edition of Indonesia Design themed “House of Worship” that is published in 2005.

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