Reddit Reddit reviews Islamic Architecture: Form, Function, and Meaning

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Islamic Architecture: Form, Function, and Meaning
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1 Reddit comment about Islamic Architecture: Form, Function, and Meaning:

u/kerat ยท 2 pointsr/arabs

Well I studied in the UK, so not sure. However, I did go to Kuwait University one summer and I met with the head of the architecture department. I was spending time there and wanted to study traditional Islamic architecture, and I had a family contact to the department head. Anyway he was surprised and said sorry, we don't have any classes on that. So I asked.. 'well.. what do you teach here?' He responded: 'You know... Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, Frank Lloyd Wright...'

So that's not a good sign.

Regarding architectural trends, my feeling is that the GCC states are going through a phase of tribal modern. My own theory is that in the 50s and 60s, Gulf nations were building in what can be called Islamic Classicism. Iraqi architect Mohamed Makkiya designed Kuwait's Grand Mosque. He used Abbasid and Moorish elements in the design, and he was extremely popular across the new oil-rich states. You see other examples, such as this Islamic centre in Doha. It's based on the 9th century Samarra Mosque in Iraq, and the Ibn Tulun mosque in Cairo from the same century. In general, the architecture of the GCC states was a schizophrenic development - famous foreign architects building straightforward modernist cities and buildings, with local architects following more classical Islamic style.

After a few decades, these states began to exert more focus on their own sovereignty and heritage. So you start to see lots of buildings rejecting Islamic architecture, and basing their design on sand dunes, dhows, pearling, waves, and most of all, malqafs (wind towers), and crenellations. If you visit Kuwait or especially the UAE, you'll see wind towers on everything - shopping malls, garages, gas stations, bridges. Look at Souq Sharq in Kuwait. Of course these aren't real wind towers. Just decorative. In Oman, everything has crenellations. Because Oman is famous for its forts and fortified villages, very similar to Qasbahs and crenellated mosques in the Maghreb and Andalusia (because they were actual military structures). So now everything has to have crenellations. Qatar has gone the same route, just check out the new Ministry of Interior building. I'm not sure whether the famous Qatari forts are even Qatari, or whether they are Ottoman built.. but whatever. The point is that each state is exerting its own style evoking a patriotic national bedouin past. Kuwait's parliament building was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, and is one of the earliest examples of this in my opinion. It's based on the bedouin tent.

In terms of domestic architecture, traditional Arabic-Islamic design is non-existent. The building regulations and codes don't allow for the density needed for vernacular architecture of the region, and the masterplans that created the codes were all done by European, mainly British, architects.

In terms of sources, it depends on what your main interest is. I mainly used academic papers, because the topic of urban transformation of the GCC isn't well researched at all. There are a few interesting academics writing about the tragedy of urbanism in the GCC. Like Saleh al-Hathloul, Ashraf Salama, Yasser Mahgoub, and Fadl al-Buainain. I relied heavily on the Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, and the now defunct Mimar magazine and Muqarnas journal.

This is an excellent book by a Tunisian author, but it's very dry and academic, and the pictures all black and white, so not sure that's what you're looking for.

Arts and Crafts of the Islamic Lands is an excellent book. It covers geometry and calligraphy and has lots of instructional stuff. Not really about architecture.

Contemporary Architecture In the Arab States is a classic. It looks at the best MENA architecture from the 70s to the 90s. Doesn't talk about urbanism though.

The book I linked to previously, Kuwait Transformed, by Farah al-Nakib, is a great book, but focuses entirely on Kuwait.

This is an absolutely fantastic book, but I could only find it at the uni library. It's a collection of research papers from a conference in the 1980s. I even contacted the organization in SAudi to try to find out if they have any copies i could get, but predictably, didn't get a response.

If you're interested in regular traditional architecture of the MENA region, with some nice pictures (hand sketches), that covers each country, then this is absolutely fantastic.

I could go on forever with these sources, but I think mine may be too specific for your interest. Something like this or this cover general Islamic architecture well, but they focus always on mosques and monuments. That's why I really enjoy Raguette's book, because it focuses on domestic and vernacular architecture.

Sorry for the long rambly reply.