Heritage building analysis _ Royal Mosque of Sultan Sulaiman
Royal Mosque of Sultan
Masjid Diraja Sultan Sulaiman
Architecture Culture & History 2
Nurul Jannah Masturah Jailani (0310210)
Gertrude Lee (0306265)
Trevor Hoareau (0308914)
Kee Ting Ting (0310019)
1.1 Building Facts
1.2 Contextual Conditions
1.3 Concept and Design
2 Building Inventory
2.1 Stained Glass
2.7 Groined vaulting
Masjid Sultan Sulaiman Jamiur – Rahmah, also known as Sultan Sulaiman Royal
Mosque, was named after the fifth Sultan of Selangor which is Sultan Sir Alaeddin
Sulaiman Shah (1898-1938). This mosque is located at Jalan Kota Raja, Klang,
Selangor. This mosque was designed by the British architect Leofic Kesteven. This
mosque was completed in the year 1932 and was officially opened by the fifth Sultan of
Selangor, Sultan Alaeddin Sulaiman Shah on 1934. Besides being a place for worship for
the Islam and a sign of the Supremacy of the King, it was also to introduce the idea
whereby the mosque act as the complex of religion which has the administrative body,
the educational body and others during the early 19th century.
Other famous old buildings which are around the same area as Masjid Sultan Sulaiman
are Kolej Islam Sultan Alam Shah, The Sultan Abdul Aziz Royal Gallery and Istana Alam
Shah. Kolej Islam Sultan Alam Shah was initially a palace which was donated by
Almarhum Sultan Hishamuddin Ibni Almarhum Sultan Sulaiman to become a college until
today. His hope was that this college would produce scholars who is loyal to Allah and
can guide the community towards pure Islamic teaching and values. The Sultan Abdul
Aziz Royal Gallery was dedicated in honour of his late father, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul
Aziz Shah. Lastly, Istana Alam Shah is the official palace of the Sultan of Selangor. This
palace was built in 1905 during the rule of Sultan Sir Alaeddin Sulaiman Shah, fifth
Sultan of Selangor.
Image 1.1 : Kolej Islam Sultan Alam Shah (KISAS)
Source : www.kisas.org
Image 1.2 : Sultan Sulaiman Royal Mosque
Source : Gertrude Lee, 2013
Image 1.3 : The Sultan Abdul Aziz Royal Gallery
Image 1.4 : Istana Alam Shah, Klang, Selangor
As mention, the architect, Leofic Kesteven was appointed by the British to design the
mosque. He designed it in such a way that the mosque’s architecture has an influence of
Islamic Architecture and the combination of Western Art Deco and Neoclassical cathedral
style. The original design of the building is like a church plan, whereby the design is like a
cross bar when viewed from above. This is due to the fact that the mosque could be
converted into a church if the British were to consider colonizing Malaysia completely.
The building is made out of stone, as this was under the influence of the British and Indian
Muslim. The most noticeable feature of the plan is the central plan. This plan uses two
main axes of the axis of the East-West and North- South. There are eight small towers
around the mosque and a large tower in the middle and higher entrance from the main
porch. The tower is also decorated with yellow dome at the summit.
BUILDING INVENTORY – Elements of the Building
The mosque was designed and built during the British colonization in the 19th century.
There was a theory that the British architect, although the mosque as a gift to the Sultan,
he had designed it in a way that resembles a church so that if the British managed to
colonize Malaysia completely, they can just convert it into church.
One of the elements that were implemented in the design of the mosque was stained
glass (refer image 2.1.1). Stained glass is a common element found in the architecture of
churches and cathedrals to light symbolizing God and the colors from the glass
symbolizing jewels embellishing the Heavenly City of Jerusalem.
It’s the only form of art, which is observed through refracted and not reflected light, so its
appearance changes according to the time of the day and season of the year. Stained
glass can be arranged to create a figural design and painting or set contrasting pieces in a
framework like a mosaic.
Although the British wanted it to resemble church, they had to respect the Islamic style
that had been used for mosques. Normally, stained glass windows would depict pictures
of religious individuals but in Islam it is highly discouraged. It is haram to make illustrations
or portrayals of God or the Prophets.
An overall minimalistic building, the mosque does contain certain ornamentations,
predominantly geometrical patterns but there are traces of arabesque on plain solid walls.
Mosques tend to be simple and undecorated. Lavish and extravagant ornaments were
dissuaded because it’s considered as boasting. But there are grand mosques in the world
that were built as a political statement or were converted from churches, synagogues and
In Islamic architecture, geometric patterns are generated from repeating, combining,
interlacing and arranging simple shapes into different combinations to form complex
The Sultan Sulaiman Royal Mosque consists of geometric patterns that can be found on
the walls and fences of the mosque and on floor tiles in the courtyard.
The ornamentation used was not complex, mostly resembling stars or flowers.
There are also hints of arabesque, an intricate ornament composed of vegetal and
geometric patterns along with calligraphic ornament of an inscription.
Image 2.2.1 : Ornamentation
Source : Jannah Jailani , 2013
Minarets or manara (Image 2.3), are towers that can be found attaches to the mosque.
The largest minaret and tallest is placed in the middle of the walkway, is surrounded by 8
smaller minarets, all adorned with yellow domes, were added on after the British
colonization.Considered to be one of the most distinctive features of the Islamic
architecture in mosques, it was said that the development of minarets was influenced by
several sources. The word minaret, may originally meant ‘an object that gives light’, used
in old Arabic poetry to mean oil lamp or rush light used in the cell of the Christian monk.
Later, the word was used to describe ‘light-towers’ or ‘lighthouse’.
“Schwally has suggested, and he is followed by Douttée, that the application of the word
‘manārat’ to the tower of a mosque is due to the light held by the Muezzin as he recites
the call to prayer at which gives the onlooker below the idea of a light-tower...”(Gottheil,
Although it’s main function is to give call to prayers and require no great details, nowadays
minarets are built tall and lavished with ornamentation as a political statement of a certain
community or association. In the medieval Islamic world, the Muezzins used to recite the
call to prayer from the roof of the mosque or the top of the minarets, but with the
development of technology, loudspeakers are attached to the minarets to make the calls
instead of the Muezzin himself.
The most obvious element of the mosque is the dome (Image 2.4). A dome is a vault
created by turning an arch trhough 360 degrees to form a curved roof that creates a
magnificent silhouette against the sky. It is a common element found in Islamic
Image 2.4 : The Domes of Sultan Sulaiman Royal Mosque
Source : Trevor Hoareau , 2013
The very first construction of the dome began in the Roman Architectural Revolution and
were an important part of the early Christian and Byzantine architecture. In the Muslim
world, construction of domes reached its peak during the 16th – 18th centuries. The dome,
in the mosque, is placed directly above the main prayer hall. This symbolizes the vault of
heaven and the sky. The dome is an efficient structure that helps to keep the inside of the
building cool and airy, improving the ventilation especially in hot climates like Malaysia.
Consequently, the mosque does not require a lot of fans to keep the interior well
ventilated. The dome also acts as an amplifier for the voice of the person who’s
addressing the congregation.
One of the most incredible architectural discovery is the arch (refer to image 2.5), dating
back to ancient times but is still in wide use today, as up until the 19th century, it was the
only known method for roofing without the use of beams. Arches are especially use in
cathedrals during the medieval times, supporting the great weight of the stone ceilings
when the walls were weakened by the presence of many windows and the arches are
often supported by buttresses.
Unique to architecture was the Islamic arch, found about the same time in the Middle
East. Numerous advances were made by the culture until they have developed a
horseshoe-shaped arch. According to FSTC Limited (2002), the horseshoe arch is a
symbol of sainthood and holiness and it is an improved version of the Roman semicircular
arch in that it is much more circular in shape. Besides, it also provided a better
improvement allowing more heights than the classical arch as well as better aesthetic and
ornamental use. The Islamic arches can be found in mosques throughout the Middle East
as well as other Islamic countries like Malaysia.
Image 2.5 : Arches in Riwaq (additional space for pilgrims to pray)
Sources : Jannah Jailani , 2013
Pebble dashing wall finish, referring to image 2.6, was implemented on the design of the
mosque. Pebbledash is the modern rendering process that dates from Roman time. The
finish renders the external walls by mixing lime or cement with sand; small gravel and
pebbles then cast the wall with it. "In Britain, it is thought to have originated in the 16th
century in East Anglia, where there had been a recent revival of brick making, but none
except the grandest could afford a whole wall full of the smart new bricks"- described by
Derbyshire Aggregates Ltd. In 19th century, William Morris instigated that it caught the
eye of the Arts and Crafts movement. Besides that, the functions that it provided are
improved water shedding properties, gave good impact resistance, provided a low
maintenance decorative finish, and so on. (Derbyshire Aggregates Ltd 2009 - 2013)
The pebbledash finish is originally used as protection from the weather but in common,
this finish does not add any additional strength to a wall. With the recent development of
aggregate products for dashing, pebbledash are now available in great choice of colour
and texture. This rendering is significant in Britain due to the climate of Britain, which is
damp and high in humidity. This climatic condition is ideal for sand and cement renders in
that it slows the curing time. Similar condition applies to the Malaysia’s climate, which is
also damp and humid all year long.
A vault is a ceiling of brick, stone or concrete built in the principle of the arch. A groin
vault is formed when a barrel vault is intersected at right angles another barrel vault of
the same size. It was first exploited by the Romans but soon obscured by the
development of ribbed vaults of Gothic architecture. Its efficient form allows full
illumination from the sides as well as allowing minimum use of materials and labor over
the simple vault since the thrust is concentrated along the groins, so only at its four
corners need to be abutted.
Referring the image 2.7, groined vaults were implemented around the entrances of the
Mosque that permits additional openings for each section.
Image 2.7 : Groin vaulting in Main Entrance
Source: Jannah Jailani, 2013
This study allowed us to carry out a building survey and inspections/site visits to record
and observe the architectural style of this mosque, Sultan Sulaiman Royal Mosque.
Across Malaysia, there are various types of mosque architecture with common
properties/features, whereas others stand out as more unique. This paper presents an
analysis of the Sultan Sulaiman Royal Mosque built in 1932. The study classifies and
describes the various features and elements of the mosque to better understand which
architectural style mostly influenced its design and construction. Moreover, it is clear that
the Art-Deco style is apparent throughout this design, with of course the influence of
Western Art Deco and Neo-classical Architecture, as described by the specific features in
Befitting its great historical value, the Sultan Sulaiman Royal Mosque was declared a
National Heritage by the Minister of Information Communications and Culture, YB Dato
Seri Utama Dr. Rais Yatim on 10 May 2012, at the National Heritage Declaration
The practice of building conservation which includes the works of repair and
maintenance may guarantee this buildings life span. It is a process which leads to the
prolongation of the life of cultural property. Building conservation should be seen as a
way of preserving particular aspects of Malaysia's history and development. In most
cities and towns in Malaysia, the mosques are usually more distinctive than other
buildings, and the Sultan Sulaiman Royal Mosque is one of them. Sometimes, mosques
of unique architectural styles become the landmarks and focal points in the streets. This
results in the formation of a unique identity to the urban area which may enhance the
Muslim communities and cultures.
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