Istiqlal Mosque by Friedrich Silaban- Shifting perspectives on colonial architecture - Sheet1

Istiqlal Mosque ©img.jakpost.netBefore starting the story about the Istiqlal Mosque, we absolutely should know the architect behind the construction of this first great mosque in Indonesia. The architect of the Istiqlal Mosque is Friedrich Silaban. He is the priest’s son and embraces Christianity. Although he is a Christian, he succeeds to win the Istiqlal Mosque’s design competition in 1955 that was held by the first president of Indonesia, Soekarno.

Istiqlal Mosque by Friedrich Silaban- Shifting perspectives on colonial architecture - Sheet2
Friedrich Silaban ©

Istiqlal is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. Not only that but also the third-largest in the world. Istiqlal has 12 pillars that symbolize the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. Moreover, there are 5 floors, symbolizing the pillars of Islam and Pancasila. Also, a large fountain symbolizes “monotheism” built in the southwest. Indeed the design of Friedrich Silaban is full of philosophy.

Discussing the meaning of the Istiqlal Mosque, Istiqlal means “independence”. The word “independence” was given as a symbol of Indonesia’s independence in 1945 after the colonial period. Silaban said that the design originally came from his mind. Then, he put architectural principles that match in Indonesian’s tropical climate and Islamic rules.

The Istiqlal Mosque stands on an area of ​​9.5 hectares, flanked by two Ciliwung River waterways. Its location near the Indonesian National Monument symbolizes the role of nationality in this mosque. Based on its history, to sustain the building for a long period, Silaban surveyed Iran, Egypt, and Malaysia to look for inspirational mihrab designs that are proper for the Istiqlal Mosque.

The beauty of the Istiqlal mosque can be seen from the implementation of a fusion of Indonesian, Middle Eastern, and European architectural styles. The Indonesian architectural style that adapts to the tropical climate is applied to parts of the mosque which are close to the central government. Then, in the dome, calligraphy was applied as a result of the appropriation of typical Middle Eastern architecture. Moreover, European-style architecture is seen on the pillars and walls in the corner of the mosque terrace.

Contextual Construction

Istiqlal Mosque by Friedrich Silaban- Shifting perspectives on colonial architecture - Sheet3
Istiqlal Dome ©

The Istiqlal Mosque was first built in 1961. At that time, Silaban was assisted by several structural experts. The structural expert also decided to study in Europe to learn about the excellent structure that should apply in the building. Then the interesting structural part of the Istiqlal mosque is the dome, its tower, and its corridors.

Here is the following explanation about the structure:

1. The Dome

At first, Silaban proposed the dimension of the dome is 45 meters in diameter. At that time, there was no construction of a very large dome, at an altitude of 35 meters from the ground in Indonesia.  As a result, the Istiqlal dome structure uses a polyhedron method with fabrication materials. Its dome is sustained by 12 enormous pillars and 5,138 piles; the dome frame using stainless steel material from West Germany weighing 86 tons. Then, the outside is coated with ceramic and mounted with a star-shaped lightning rod.

Istiqlal Mosque by Friedrich Silaban- Shifting perspectives on colonial architecture - Sheet4
The Construction of Istiqlal Mosque in 1960s ©

2. The Tower or Minaret

The tower symbolizes the majesty of Islam where it has a height of 6,666 cm which symbolizes the number of verses of the Al-Quran. Also above the tower, there is 30-meter high steel that also symbolizes the number of juz in the Al-Quran.

Istiqlal Mosque by Friedrich Silaban- Shifting perspectives on colonial architecture - Sheet5
The Construction of Istiqlal Mosque Tower in 1960s ©

3. Thermal Comfort

Even though this mosque does not have an air conditioner system, the air inside the mosque is so fresh. Silaban made the walls as few as possible so that the wind could easily enter. Therefore, the prayer at the mosque can be intimate with God fervently.

Image Sources:  Interior of the Istiqlal Mosque ©



Spatial Planning and User-Centric Design

Istiqlal Mosque by Friedrich Silaban- Shifting perspectives on colonial architecture - Sheet7
Manual Drawing of Friedrich Silaban for Istiqlal Mosque Construction ©

The Istiqlal Mosque surrounded by the river has three large bridges with a width of 18.6 meters and a length of 21-25 meters. Also, there is a small bridge for pedestrians made of stainless steel. Before entering the mosque, Istiqlal also has a giant terrace and corridor surrounded by 1800 pillars.

Formerly, the main building is 60 meters long and 100 meters wide facing Makkah or Qiblah. Wherever, this main building serves as an office building, service room, wudhu area, and an extension of the gathering area during the Islamic great day. The Istiqlal Mosque has a support building; it is used for prayer space. This area is covered by 17,300 marbles and 1899 stakes.

Moreover, the Istiqlal Mosque is capable of accommodating many people. The main prayer hall and balcony and wings can hold 61,000 people. Then, the room in the preliminary building contains 8,000 people. The open terrace room on the 2nd floor holds 50,000 people. Also, all corridors and other places contain 81,000 people.

Lesson from Istiqlal Mosque

The simplicity of the idea of ​​a Friedrich Silaban who is contextual about the environment managed to apply Islamic rules properly. Now, Istiqlal is the grandest mosque in Southeast Asia and is able to accommodate 200,000 worshipers and is always crowded on the Islamic great day. In addition, its function is not only as a mosque but as a communal space of society and as a witness to the history of architectural developments in Indonesia.



She is an architecture student who always feels interested in learning something new. One of them is trying to become a journalist architect. She believes by sharing her writings, she can explore the entire world.