Islamic Cemetary: Modern interpretation of Islamic ornament

The Shingle Mihrab is an Islamic Cemetery in Vorarlber, Austria. The design by Bernardo Bader officially opened in June of 2012.

Below, you see the detail of the Qibla wall, a stainless steel mesh with an array of wood shingles.  The shingles are oriented towards Mecca and spell the name of “Allah” in the ancient Arabic script: Kufic.

In Islamic mosque, no images are allowed within the sacred space. Often they use holy text in Arabic and decorative tile to adorn the walls (see this in the Green Mosque).  In this new sacred space, the designer reconciled the restrictions of Islam.

The wood shingles and steel mesh play with a reveal of the garden seen through the glass behind while filtrating natural light into the room. The intervention intrigues without distracting a visitor to the cemetery. Here the architects needed to ask themselves the question: when does architecture enhance an experience and when does it become the experience?

When focusing on the tiling of the wall, the design seems quite modern, almost as if they are the pixels of a low quality jpeg.  But as I look at these wood shingles I see the texturing similar to the tiles of a traditional Islamic mosque. The design overall seems respectful to the strict rules in Islamic architecture but has strong overtones of the modern aesthetic. Could it be that every ones with this one?


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