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Islamic Architecture
Posted by admin on Dec 22, 2009 in Religion

Dr. Shanti is fascinated by the Islamic architecture because it encompasses a wide range of both secular and religious styles from the foundation of Islam to the present day. This influences greatly the design and construction of buildings and structures in Islamic culture.

A specifically recognizable Islamic architectural style emerged soon after prophet Mohamed time, developing from local adaptations of Egyptian, Byzantine, and Persian models. Geometric artwork in the form of the Arabesques was not widely used in the Middle East or Mediterranean Basin until the golden age of Islam came into full bloom. During this time, ancient texts on Greek and Hellenistic mathematics as well as Indian mathematics were translated into Arabic at the house of wisdom, an academic research institution in Baghdad. Like the later European Renaissance that followed, mathematics, science, literature and history were infused into the Muslim world with great, mostly positive repercussions.

The work of ancient scholars such as Plato, Euclid, Aryabhata and Brahmagupta were widely read among the literate and further advanced in order to solve mathematical problems which arose due to the Islamic requirements of determining the Kiblah and times of prayers and Ramadan. Plato’s ideas about the existence of a separate reality that was perfect in form and function and crystalline in character, Euclidean geometry as expounded on by Al Abbas al Jawaheri, the trigonometry of Aryabhata and Brahmagupta as elaborated on by Mohamed Al Khawarezmi and the development of spherical geometry by Abu al Wafa al Buzjani and spherical Trigonometry by Al Jayyani for determining the Kiblah and times of Salah and Ramadan, all served as an impetus for the art form that was to become the arabesque.

Distinguishing motifs of Islamic architecture have always been ordered repetition, radiating structures, and rhythmic, metric patterns. In this respect, fractal geometry has been a key utility, especially for mosques and palaces.  Other significant features employed as motifs include columns, piers and arches, organized and interwoven with alternating sequences of niches and colonnettes. The role of domes has been considerable.

Moorish architecture is my favorite. The construction of the great mosque at Cordoba beginning in 785 CE marks the beginning of Islamic architecture in the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa. Moorish architecture reached its peak with the construction of Alhambra, the magnificent palace of Granada, with its open and breezy interior spaces adorned in red, blue and gold.  The walls are decorated with stylized foliage motifs, Arabic inscriptions, and arabesque design work, with walls covered in glazed tile. Moorish architecture has its roots deeply established during the era of the first Caliphate of the Umayyad in the Levant Circa 660 AD with its capital Damascus having very well preserved examples of fine Arab Islamic design and geometric, including the Carmen, which is the typical Damascene house, opening on the inside with a fountain as the house center piece.

Calligraphy is associated with geometric Islamic art (the Arabesque) on the walls and ceilings of mosques as well as on the page. Contemporary artists in the Islamic world draw on the heritage of calligraphy to use calligraphic inscriptions or abstractions in their work.

Instead of recalling something related to the reality of the spoken word, calligraphy for the Muslim is visible expression of spiritual concepts. Calligraphy has arguably become the most venerated form of the Islamic art because it provides a link between the languages of the Muslims with the religion of Islam.

Among elements of Islamic style are Domes and Cupolas, the use of geometric shapes and repetitive art, the use of muqarnas, a unique Arabic/Islamic space enclosing system, the use of decorative Islamic calligraphy instead of pictures, central fountains used for ablution, the use of bright color if the style is Persian or Indian, Paler sandstone and gray stones are preferred among Arab buildings. And focus on the interior space of a building and the exterior.

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