islamic architecture


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The Islamic period began with the spread of Islam in the seventh century. Islam as a religion replaced a previous tradition of idol worship that was popular in most parts of the world. Apart from the religious aspects, this period is also marked by influential architectural and artistic styles and designs and new food varieties. This was one of the aims of Islam, to bring civilization to the world. The architectural designs were used in building mosques, tombs, palaces and forts. Islamic motifs which were used in palaces and mosques were repeated patterns of fractal geometry. The Persian styles especially dominated their styles. This is because the Islam captured the Persian empire, this made them largely exposed to their styles(Ragette, p 22 2006).

Different architectural styles

The most prominent architectural style was copied from the Egyptians, Greeks, German’s Visigoths and Persian’s Sassanid and was localized. The Persian styles were widely used to develop a country called Azerbaijan where architectural schools were located. These schools were built with carved stones instead of the previously used bricks. In fact to some extent, the Islamic styles are said to be an extension of the Persian architectural styles. This came after the death of Muhammad. These styles were also used to build among the largest mosques. Majority of mosques in Turkey which was part of the Islamic ottoman empire, used this style.

It is important to note that architectural styles were named after the region or empire they were used in or the materials used. Their references were preserved in buildings. The Bynzantine style was used for as long as five hundred years. The reference point of this style was in Hagia church. Mosques were built in reference to the style used in building the church. Another popular architectural style was the Moorish architecture that used foliage motifs and inscriptions to decorate walls. Gold was also used in these buildings. This architectural style had been heavily influenced by the Arabic traditions.

For long the Islamic architecture consisted of simple buildings which were extensively decorated. This was however transformed in to domes and columns by the ottomans. Mosques were also transformed from their simple and dark chambers into beautiful heavenly and magnificent sanctuaries. Timurid was another style of Turkish of origin but which had been influenced by Persian styles. The symmetry of patterns in the structures that used this design e.g. differently shaped double domes was the most notable feature (Ragette , p 56).

Mamluk architecture was common in Cairo. There was however no uniform style of this design because during these time, people built individual structures and monuments. Therefore styles were individualized. Religious and social influences were the determining factors in designing a style during this time since rich patrons used it to enhance their roles socially and in religious aspects. Other styles include minarets(towers), iwan, mihrab, cupolas, muqarnas and fountains.

Most popular building

The most popular buildings were mosques and palaces. Azm (Qasr al-azm) palace was among the popular buildings which remains to this day. It is located at the center of the ancient town of Hama which is next to Damascus in Syria. It was a residence of the ottoman empire governor. Its popularity was derived from the large size, the style used and its purpose. The unique structural design also contributed to its popularity at that time. Its located was at bank of river Orontes. The palatial complex has three court yards in the two floors and more than seventy rooms.

The lower courtyard had a centrally placed fountain surrounded by trees that provided shade. They also created some cool and fresh air effect in the court yard at the second floor . A three sided liwan with seats gave the residents a resting place. There were stairs that ushered visitors and residents into the beautiful grand guest reception. There was a smaller court yard at the lower floor that served as the women’s and family’s meeting place. On the side of this court, there was the family wing which had the kitchen , servant quarters and the baths. Use of different stones of different types including marble gave an outstanding and natural beautification. The ceiling was made of painted wood panels. Panels of birds and trees were used in decorating the inner rooms. Window frames were also decorated with carvings of stone(Gibson ,p 75).

Due to the conservative nature of Islam believers, the attacks that were launched during this period were based on religious believes like of the holy war in defense for ones faith and religion. The ottoman empire however secularized its leadership in order to accommodate the Christians that were found in their midst. For this reason, they took a more securalized stand in resolving conflicts.


Relevance to this day

The building of this palace led to building of another bigger later in Damascus. The palace in Damascus led to an expansion of building and architecture in Damascus. Most of these buildings were schools, baths and khans which exist to today. The mosques that were built during the Islamic period are still in existence to this day. Further they influenced building of more of them with similar designs. These designs also set a path for architectural civilization to the world. Ideas bought from this period have been used to develop more elaborate and sophisticated designs(Gibson ,p 82)







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