10
Jun
07

Architecture


Intricate tile designs on the Masjid-i Shah in Isfahan
Courtesy of IslamiCity
http://www.islamicity.org

The most important building in the Islamic world was the mosque, followed by the royal palace. Mosques, as the centre of worship, were among the first buildings erected in the Islamic world. Many early mosques were in fact converted Christian churches or Zoroastrian fire temples in the newly acquired Islamic lands. Invading armies did not require elaborate buildings in which to pray; as long as they knew the direction of Mecca in order to face it when praying, Muslims were then – and are still today – able to perform their prayer duties. The first mosques Muslims constructed, therefore, were simple squares. As the Islamic empire grew in size and power, mosques became larger and more elaborate. In the areas around the Mediterranean Sea, most mosques followed a so-called “open plan,” with a courtyard in the centre, roofed arcades, and the first minarets – towers that extend vertically from the mosque. Examples of this style include the Great Mosque of Kairouan (7th century), the Great Mosque of Damascus (early 8th century), and the Mosque of Cordoba in Spain (late 8th century). In Iran and Central Asia, a slightly different sort of mosque developed under the influence of Sassanid architecture. Four hallways led out from the open court, and minarets often came down to the ground, instead of resting on the top of the building. The Seljuk Masjid-i Jami in Isfahan (1072-92) and the Safavid Masjid-i Shah (1612-38) exemplify this style of mosque.

Masjid-i Jami
Seljuk brickwork patterns on the Masjid-i Jami in Isfahan
Courtesy of IslamiCity
http://www.islamicity.org

A third type was the domed mosque, common in Turkish Asia Minor. Although not a mosque, the 7th century Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem also had a dome, but the feature was not common at that time. Large domes were difficult to build, and the task was not regularly undertaken until the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453 and sought to build a mosque to rival the grand Hagia Sophia, a magnificent domed Byzantine cathedral in the city. This was finally accomplished with the Selimiye Mosque at Edirne (1567-74), which had a larger dome than Hagia Sophia. Its Turkish architect, Sinan, was one of the most famous Islamic architects. He built the Sehzade Mosque in 1543 after the death of Suleyman I’s son, Mehmed. He also built the Suleymaniye Mosque (1551-57), whose roof still dominates the Istanbul skyline, and the Selimiye, completed in 1574 when Sinan was 80 years old. It is considered to be his masterpiece.

Selimiye Mosque
The Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, Turkey
Courtesy of IslamiCity
http://www.islamicity.org

Islamic palaces were built in a unique way, because most of them were not meant to last longer than the ruler who inhabited them. Built from unbaked brick, or sometimes plaster, many palaces crumbled in the desert sun when abandoned. The Alhambra Palace in Granada provides a good example of this type of construction; it remains standing today, however, largely because Christian kings took it over and preserved it after the Christian reconquest of Granada in the 15th century. The largest surviving Islamic palace is Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, which was begun in the 15th century and underwent frequent additions until the 19th century. Islamic mausoleums could also be grand structures, despite Islam’s official discouragement of elaborate tombs. The Gur-i Amir, Timur’s tomb in Samarkand (1405) is an example. Perhaps the most famous and elaborate Islamic tomb, the Taj Mahal in Agra, India (1632-47), was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, and pioneered the use of white marble as a construction material.

Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, completed in 1648 C.E.
Courtesy of Muslim Scientists, Mathematicians and Astromers
http://users.erols.com/zenithco/

In all Islamic buildings – from mosques, palaces, and mausoleums to houses, hospital, and schools – inner space was emphasised. An inner courtyard was common, as it offered not only space, but also protection from the wind and sun in hot climates. Symmetry was not as important as it was in European architecture, and Islamic buildings often featured additions that stretched out from the courtyard, undermining the balance of each side. Male and female sections of houses were separated, and an effort was made to allow as much natural light into the buildings as possible, because in Islam, as in other religions, light was considered a symbol of divine unity. Minimal furniture was again meant to contribute to the feeling of inner space.

Courtyard
The large inner courtyard at the Mosque of Ahmad ibn Tulun in Cairo (990-1013)
Courtesy of IslamiCity
http://www.islamicity.org

Decoration in Islamic architecture followed the pattern of Islamic art in general – images of humans or animals were discouraged, because of the danger of the image being revered in any way. Mosques were particularly free from pictorial imagery in their decoration, and were usually adorned with floral patterns, geometric shapes, or calligraphy.

   


The Islamic World to 1600 / The University of Calgary
Copyright © 1998, The Applied History Research Group


1 Response to “Architecture”


  1. August 1, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Hi my loved one! I wish to say that this article is
    amazing, nice written and come with almost all vital infos.

    I would like to look more posts like this .


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