Blogging makes a writer vulnerable to hyperbole – anything to capture a corner of the internet. But it’s not hyperbole to say that Desypher’s architectural expression vis-à-vis the Islamic Museum of Australia is unparalleled in any contemporary Islamic architecture I’ve come across.
Located in Thornbury, Victoria, in a suburb of Melbourne, this recently completed museum was designed to be a “positive dispeller of stereotypes,” a place that promotes cultural awareness and understanding without exploiting cliche expressions of Islamic symbolism.
The museum collates the unique history of Australian muslims in five gallery spaces – one of which is open to visiting exhibitions, while the rest are permanent. There is also a cafe and an interactive Theatrette.
“When designing the Islamic Museum of Australia, we were adamant to resist the temptation to assemble a shallow interpretation of iconic Islamic symbols and plonk it on the banks of the Merri Creek,” writes Desypher on their website.
“Instead we carefully created something that first and foremost reflects the context of its location and at the same time is crafted out of traditional design principles and methodologies.”
Everything from the spatial and interior design to materials almost forces the visitor to experience the exhibitions from a place of curiosity, a place that is free of judgements or preconceptions, and to learn something profoundly new.
Architecture is best understood coming straight from the architect, but some architects are especially gifted at articulating their vision in words and design. This is certainly true of the Desypher crew.
“The rusted veil is set against a pristine prism delineated with a geometric pattern that is the flattened out origami construction of a sphere; the design references the oneness of God.”
“As it is manmade, the purity of its form has been deliberately and respectfully rendered incomplete. The accompanying calligraphic text is an extract from the Qur’an which describes aptly and succinctly the mission of the museum –
In the Name of God the Most Merciful the Mst Beneficent, and so narrate to them the stories that upon them they may reflect
Desypher’s language is so mesmerizing it’s hard not to feel drawn to this mysterious place, and this is exactly what the firm sought to do. They encourage visitors to “see past the veil,” “walk over the bridge,” and seek out the light.” And they’ve done this with an elegant and minimalist design that is rugged and rooted.
The angled Corten sheath envelope is perforated to let in and exude light and the patterned holes reference indigenous dot painting. This small detail reflects something that is consistent throughout the design – it is special and meaningful, largely because it takes such a layered approach to metaphor, learning, and tradition.
To ensure the space neither detracts from or competes with the various exhibitions, the design team used a material palette left in its natural state. This includes the rustic Corten steel exterior, glass, plywood balustrades polished concrete and blue-gum floors.
We’d give our eye teeth to see this place in person. So please go for us, and when you do, be sure to drop us a line with your impressions and photos.
Feel free to visit Desypher’s website for a fuller explanation of the project. We won’t be at all surprised to see this on the next roster of global design awards.