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31. May 2010

A balance between nostalgia and modernism

Woven mesh windows for the Iron Mosque in Putrajaya

Wicked tongues compare Putrajaya, the ultra-modern administrative centre in the southwest of Malaysia, to a Disneyland for civil servants. The planned city for 90,000 inhabitants was created in 1995 about 30 km south of the capital Kuala Lumpur. The sprawling satellite city, 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 68-metre high, pillar-shaped Millennium Monument, the Putra Mosque, with its 116-metre 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.

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