Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
Interest in Islamic art has grown enormously in recent years. Reflecting this awareness, in December 1998 Malaysia became home to Southeast Asia’s largest museum of Islamic art. The building occupies 30,000 square metres, situated amid the leafy surroundings of central Kuala Lumpur’s Lake Gardens.
The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia houses more than ten thousand artefacts, as well as an exceptional library of Islamic art books. The art objects on display range from the tiniest pieces of jewellery to one of the world’s largest scale models of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. The aim is to create a collection that is truly representative of the Islamic world. Instead of concentrating on works from the heartlands of Persia and the Middle East, IAMM also puts the emphasis on Asia. China and Southeast Asia are especially well represented. The third component of the Malaysian melting pot is India, which is also given special status. India, China and the Malay World are in an exceptional category. Other parts of the collection are displayed according to type rather than geographical origins in the museum’s 12 galleries.
The style of the museum building is modern, with an Islamic feel created by the details rather than by the structure itself. Iranian tile workers transformed the iwan-style entrance into a ceramic tapestry that frames a welcoming verse from the Qur’an. On the roof, these artisans turned the dome-construction traditions of Central Asia into the building’s crowning glory. The turquoise-coloured domes are now a landmark on the Kuala Lumpur skyline.
Inside the building, the angularity of 21st century design is contrasted with the soft, rounded forms of the five domes that dominate the museum’s interior. Laboured over by craftsmen from Uzbekistan, these imposing features help form an ambience that is both airy and harmony. The seamless continuity of light and space is maintained throughout the galleries and into other areas of the museum, such as the library and the restaurant.