Dear Shaded Viewers,
While I was attending Malaysian International Fashion Week last month, I stole away to the federal administrative center of Malaysia, the planned city of Putrajaya. The seat of government was shifted from Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya in 1999 and in Malay/Sanskrit the name means “princes’ victory.”
I’ve always been fascinated by planned, futuristic cities. I toured and blogged Brazil’s modernist capital, Brasilia, in 2008 and after my visit to Putrajaya I christened it “the Islamic Brasilia.” However, it’s Putrajaya’s Islamic element asserted as political ideology that is one of the bones of contention among KL’s Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and atheists. The only religious buildings allowed in Putrajaya are mosques. Islam is Malaysia’s state religion but, I was told by a local, the country is still supposed to be neutral, like Switzerland.
The other issue is that billions have been spent on developing Putrajaya, diverting funds away from KL’s neglected infrastructure. (Since the Asian financial crisis of 1998, abandoned concrete and steel shells of buildings scattered around KL have become derelict.)
But being an amateur architecture buff, I could not resist checking out Putrajaya. Its eerie emptiness (less than 30,000 residents where the unrealistic goal was to reach 300,000) reminded me of another one of my favorite places, the Fascist suburb of EUR in Rome. So, I hired a driver for the afternoon (a knowledgeable Hindu-Christian Indian gentlemen named Josef) who was indispensable in helping me cover all the sites on my list in this vast sprawl of a city.
The tone of my trip was set when Josef took me over the Seri Wawasan Bridge. This futuristic cable-stayed bridge was designed by the Perbadanan Putrajaya corporation and is meant to resemble a sail ship. It connnects Precinct 2 on the Core Island to the residential area of Precinct 8.
The Prime Minister’s office, Perdana Putra, on the wide and lonely Putrajaya Boulevard. A mix of Malay, Islamic and European influences, Perdana Putra was designed by Qidean architect Ahmad Rozi Abd Wahab and contruction was completed in 1999.
View of the Seri Wawasan Bridge
Pink and pristine, Masjid Putra is Putrajaya’s principal mosque.
Prayer hall of Masjid Putra.
Side of Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque or the Iron Mosque.
The dome of the Iron Mosque. One of Putrajaya’s newer structures, it was completed in 2009. I was mad for the gleaming, sci-fi feel of this futuristic mosque.
The path to the mosque leads from a skyway that is adapted from the ancient castles of Alhambra. It was a surreal place to wander around as the call to prayer echoed off the iron surfaces.
The “Architectural Wire Mesh” is imported from Germany and China and has also been used for the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid and the Bibliotheque national de France in Paris.
Prayer hall inside the Iron Mosque.
The ground floor of the Iron Mosque, with its smattering of snack, souvenir and clothing shops, is deceitful in its plain white blandness, much like a hospital entrance. It was not until I walked up several flights of stairs and out onto the skyway that I discovered the impressive architectural details.
View from the Iron Mosque’s skyway.
The Perbadanan government complex features a metallic mesh arch which frames the dome of the Iron Mosque.
With a style obviously influenced by the Taj Mahal in India, the Palace of Justice houses the Malaysian Court of Appeal and Federal Court, which moved from KL in the early ’00s.
I’m assuming these are government office towers.
Completed in 2003, the Putrajaya Convention Center looks like a menacing flying saucer from a ’50s sci-fi film–but it’s meant to mimic the shape of a silver Malay royal belt buckle. The 10th Conference of Organization of Islamic Countries was held here.
The Seri Saujana Bridge is the main bridge of Putrajaya and was built in 2003.
Views from the Convention Center
Empty fields around the edges of Putrajaya wait for future projects.
There are several different designs of lamp posts in Putrajaya. This one is meant to recall the crescent moon of Islam.
I was lucky to have an hour or so of sun for my photos and, right on cue, a monsoon spilled down as we were driving back to KL.
Thanks for reading.