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Cultivating Convergence: The First Islamic Cemetery in Vorarlberg, Austria

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The Altach Islamic cemetery, winner of the 2013 Aga Khan Award, exemplifies how Islamic funerary architecture can contribute to nurturing pluralism in Western Europe. This newly opened cemetery is part of a wider trend in European funerary architecture; the increasing number of Islamic cemeteries reveals the contemporary dynamics of Europe’s cultural and religious diversification. While this new trend provides an opportunity to broaden the scope of representation for Islam in the West, most of the new Islamic cemeteries have been designed mainly to fulfil functional necessities, neglecting an opportunity to shape an intercultural dialogue from an architectural standpoint. In this context, the Altach Islamic cemetery demonstrates a new approach to creating Islamic architecture in non-Islamic environments that fosters cultural convergence. By emphasizing the dialogic dimensions of architecture through design, implementation and public mediation, this approach allows for an understanding of architecture as a medium for community-making and as a bridge between cultures.

Keywords: Aga Khan Award; Islam in the West; Islamic architecture; cemetery; identity; integration; pluralism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Publication date: March 1, 2014

More about this publication?
  • The International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA) is intended for those interested in urban design and planning, architecture, and landscape design in the historic Islamic world, encompassing the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, but also the more recent geographies of Islam in its global dimensions. The main emphasis is on detailed analysis of the practical, historical and theoretical aspects of architecture, with a focus on both design and its reception. The journal is also specifically interested in contemporary architecture and urban design in relation to social and cultural history, geography, politics, aesthetics, technology, and conservation. Spanning across cultures and disciplines, IJIA seeks to analyze and explain issues related to the built environment throughout the regions covered. The cross-cultural and interdisciplinary nature of this journal will significantly contribute to the knowledge in this field.

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