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Glenn Murcutt hopes the mosque in Newport, Melbourne, will embrace the Islamic and Australian community
Glenn Murcutt looks robust but decidedly pale, the result of a week in bed due to a rare bout of ill health. Despite this, Australia‘s greatest living architect, as he’s most commonly referred to internationally, is stoically committed to discussing a work-in-progress that’s “too important” not to.
Propelling him out of bed is his dedication to one of the nation’s “most terrific” communities, “a fantastic group of people” he’s grown to know and love over the past decade – the Newport Islamic Society in suburban Melbourne.
And, for the non-traditional, very contemporary Australian building he’s creating for and with them – the highly anticipated Australian Islamic Centre. Anticipated both for its social and political ambitions, and architecturally, as Murcutt’s first major public building in some time.
A decade in the making and still unfinished, it’s a modern mosque that breaks respectfully with tradition in a striking, myriad of ways – designed to be physically and psychologically inclusive rather than exclusive, transparent rather than closed, contemporary rather than conventional, and to speak eloquently of both its current Australian context and ancient Islamic culture.
The result is architecture with the powerful and possibly unprecedented potential to transform relations between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians, according to a growing number of the hopeful tracking its progress, author David Malouf among them.
“At every level, from the community itself to the building, we’ve all attempted to bring together a non-threatening, inclusive building,” Murcutt says quietly. “I wanted the building to say: we are embracing the Islamic community and the Australian community.”
Both architect and client agreed from the outset on the critical nature of this aspiration, particularly in the current political and social climate. Over recent years, a handful of proposed new mosques or community centres in NSW, Victoria and Queensland have met with vocal community pushback and concern, with One Nation calling in September for a ban on all new mosques and Islamic schools. […]