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  • 1/9/2007

Islamic architecture

Muhammad Ali mosque, Cairo

Architecture is one of the greatest Islamic art forms. An Islamic style is seen in mosques but also in Muslim houses and gardens.

Some of the typical features are

It's hidden - another term is "the architecture of the veil"

A traditional Islamic house is built around a courtyard, and shows only a wall with no windows to the street outside

It thus protects the family, and family life from the people outside, and the harsh environment of many Islamic lands - it's a private world

Concentration on the interior rather than the outside of a building - the common Islamic courtyard structure provides a space that is both outside, and yet within the building

Another key idea, also used in town planning, is of a sequence of spaces.

Muhammad Ali mosque, Cairo

The mechanical structure of the building is de-emphasised

Buildings do not have a dominant direction

Large traditional houses will often have a complex double structure that allows men to visit without running any risk of meeting the women of the family

Houses often grow as the family grows - they develop according to need, not to a grand design

Buildings are often highly decorated and color is often a key feature.

But the decoration is reserved for the inside. Most often the only exterior parts to be decorated will be the entrance and the dome.

Religious buildings in particular will often use geometry to symbolic effect.

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