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Islamic Architecture and Geometry

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Islamic Architecture and Geometry When studying Islamic architecture and archaeology one can easily become distracted by the beauty and grace of the many different and Iconic Islamic structures. Coming from New York City it is becoming increasingly difficult to learn about the cities past by studying its Architectural history. Everyday older buildings are being knocked down and replaced by newer and more visually appealing skyscrapers. However, this trend has not come to pass in the major Islamic cities of the east. From Damascus to Baghdad or Jerusalem or Samara one can study and see the history that is still currently present within their cities. One of the most fascinating aspects of Islamic architecture and archaeology for me has always been the immense attention to detail in which the Islamic monuments were built with. For example Ludovico Micara talks about the importance of Geometry within the context of Islamic architecture and design. He references the well-known historian of Islamic art Oleg Grabar. Grabar talks about how writing, geometry, architecture and nature go hand in hand within Islam “In viewers well-defined emotions and stances: control and forcefulness of assertion with writing, Order with geometry, boundaries and protection with architecture, life forces with nature and throughout sensory pleasure”, This concept of interweaving architecture and design with geometry and nature has always been the most interesting concept for me when studying Islamic architecture. As we have covered in class since for the most part Islamic societies could not use living objects or animals in their designs they focused more on excelling in the art of bringing geometric designs to life. As we can see from some of the building we have studied in class that geometry plays a very important roll within the context of design. For example In Jerusalem the dome of the rock has a geometrically symmetrical design, which is located on a rectangular plateau in the city, the base of the structure has an octagonal shape, and the center of the building itself is a large dome. In the Micara article we can observe the pictures of the reconstruction of a fontispiece from the Koran and see how many geometric shapes are used in the actual design. Interestingly enough the idea of using strict geometric design when constructing monuments in the Islamic world did not only occur with regards to the finer details. In the Richard Ettinghausen article “Muslim Cities: Old and New” Ettinghausen studies the ancient and famous city of Baghdad. The city is famous because it is a circular city, which at its time was incredibly unique and innovative. Ettinghausen talks about how the cities bold use of geometric shapes were used “to create a monumental impression by the superimposition or the juxtaposition of the components parts”. In terms of this course I am very interested to learn more about how the geometric design principles go hand in hand with Islamic architecture as well as archaeology.

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