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Introduction Of Islamic Architecture History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Dan Rice once said, “There are three forms of visual art: Painting is art to look at, sculpture is art you can walk around, and architecture is art you can walk through”. With this quotation, Dan Rice is classifying visual art into three different forms; painting, sculpture, and architecture. He’s defining architecture as a form of art. Architecture is a well-skilled and a well known profession recognized throughout many years. For over many centuries, we’ve been facing several various creations of different architectural styles and ideas all over the world. These styles are influenced by a range of cultures including the Islamic culture; Islamic architecture. We started off with the basics of the prehistoric and the Neolithic age, then went throughout the ancient Mesopotamia, afterwards to the ancient Egypt, and later on to the ancient Rome and until the great Islamic architecture emerged and burst out of its seeds. The Alhambra was known as “a palace, a fortress and a citadel; the residence of the Nasrid Sultans and top government officials, court servants and the royal guard”. The great fortress of Alhambra, located in Spain in the city of Granada, is considered to be part of the famous Islamic architecture built by the legendary moors.

Introduction to Islamic Architecture

The Islamic architecture was known for its four main principles. These four main principles included the mosque, tomb, fort and the palace. The great Alhambra of Granada consisted some of these four main principles ideas of the Islamic architecture. The Alhambra was a palace and a fort all at the same time. However, the most outstanding aspect or element of the entire Islamic architecture is the attention and importance towards the interior space as different to the outside or facade. Also, ornament and pattern is the most important feature in Islamic architecture and design. Dalu Jones, a writer, once said “Islamic art is an art not so much of form as of decorative themes that occur both in architecture and in the applied arts, independently of material, scale and technique. There is never one type of decoration for one type of building or object; on the contrary, there are decorative principles that are pan-Islamic and applicable to all types of buildings and objects at all times (whence comes the intimate relationship in Islam between all the applied arts and architecture). Islamic art must therefore be considered in its entirety because each building and each object embodies to some extent identical principles. Though objects and art differ in quality of execution and style, the same ideas, forms and designs constantly recur”. What Jones was trying to say was that decoration plays a major contribution to the formation of a sense of continuous space that is a trademark or a characteristic of Islamic architecture. The connecting interweaving designs often went together by variants in color and texture. These connecting interweaving designs create the illusion or the delusion of different planes. Islamic decorations is complex, luxurious, and elaborate due to the reason of the use of dazzling and shining materials and glazes, the repetition of beautiful designs, the contrasting of textures and the manipulation of planes. Jones also states that “regardless of form, material or scale, this concept of art rests on a basic foundation of calligraphy, geometry and, in architecture, the repetition and multiplication of elements based on the arch”. During the medieval Islamic period, the Islamic architecture was known for its girih; geometric star-and-polygon or strapwork, patterns in medieval Islamic architecture. They were visualized by their designers as a complex arrangement of zigzagging lines. These lines were made by using two simple tools; a straightedge and a compass. By 1200 C.E., the Muslims went through a theoretical step forward towards their girih patterns. The patterns were reconsidered as a tessellation (mainly means tiling) of a special set of equilateral polygons. These were also known as the “girih tiles” which were decorated with lines; the lines created complex periodic girih patterns. By the fifteenth century, before their discovery in the west, they were nearly to construct perfect quasi-crystalline Penrose patterns. This technique would be slightly found in the great building of the Alhambra. The Alhambra is considered as the most complete and comprehensive medieval Islamic palaces constructed in the entire globe.

Who were the moors?

Granada was once ruled by the Muslims; also called as the moors. These Muslims -the moors- were considered as nomads. Nomads are people who move from one place to another; they basically did not settle in one location except moved around a lot. These nomads were mainly from the northern shores of Africa whom converted to Islam in the eighth century. They moved into the south west of Africa and into the North West of Spain. They had been a great influence to Spain; with their great history and famous architecture style. The rise and fall of Islam in the west during the thirteenth and the fourteenth century has been the zenith of the Moorish architecture as well the European history. The Moors created a very rich and luxurious record at that time. In Moorish sculpture, stone and wood carvings were used mainly as an architectural ornament. During the Moorish Spain, filigreed; a delicate ornamental work of fine silver, gold, or other metal wires inlaid, and enameled jewelry, as well as textiles and rugs, were produced at that time. Many fascinating ivory boxes remained; the boxes were also made of precious metals. They were decorated with scenes of court life or floral and animal motives. Also, Moorish pottery was of high quality and very popular whereas lusterware; ceramic ware covered with a luster, continued to be manufactured. The “Alhambra jars”, which were made from pottery, were famous by their wing handles which were decorated with golden-brownish designs on a white background with touches of blue. However, when the Catholics took over Spain during the Christian conquest, they destroyed all evidence of that the Muslims had ever been in Spain; they destroyed about one million books where many important documents were written at that time. The Muslims were also killed or expelled in great numbers. The Catholics put an end into the civilization of 700 years. Catholics destroyed everything except for the fortress of Alhambra. They did not destroy the palace due to the reason it was one of the wonders of the medieval world. The Christians however showed their high regard and appreciation of the great Islamic building, decoration, and style in their development of Mudéjar art. This work was made by and for Christians in Moorish style. An example of Mudéjar art is the Alcazar of Seville; which was built in the fourteenth century. The Alcazars’ flat, complexly carved surfaces are typical of the Moorish façades. The wonders of the Moorish civilization in Spain were gradually extinguishing. The moors had majorly contributed to the Western Europe; especially to Spain which were nearly untold in art and architecture, medicine and science, and learning.

Introduction to the Alhambra

The great Alhambra is filled with great history and mystery. The Alhambra is easy to enjoy but yet hard to understand. In view of the fact that the Catholics put an end of the great civilization that once lived. It is located in Spain in the great city of Granada. The Alhambra was constructed on top of a hill called the Sabikah Hill; between the Darro and Genil rivers. It is surrounded by mountains where it brings out a spectacular view. Its strategic location gave the residents a sense of comfort and safety from external attacks. The building Alhambra is considered as “a palace, a fortress and a citadel; the residence of the Nasrid Sultans and top government officials, court servants and the royal guard” as mentioned previously. The Alhambra was constructed approximately during thirteen thirty eight (1338) until thirteen thirty (1330).The fortress existed since the ninth century (9th century) but it was considered as the dwelling for the kings since the thirteenth century. The lavish palace-fortress is the only large-scale domestic complex conserved from the first thousand years of Islam.

Why is it called as the “Alhambra”?

The reason why the Alhambra is called by its given name is due to several reasons. Many sources suggests more than a few various causes. Firstly, some sources say that the name “Alhambra” means “as the red one” in Arabic, therefore calling it as the “Alhambra”. Secondly, it is understood by most people; including scientists, that it was called the “Alhambra” due to the dark-reddish soil which gives it its color. In addition, at that time, during the construction of the great palace-fortress of Alhambra, the Alhambra was whitewashed yet it appears red at this time due to the changes in nature throughout these many years. The building was originally constructed with red clay of the environment which is mostly why it’s reddish.

The stages of the Alhambra

All the way through its olden times, The Alhambra has experienced many alterations and went through several different stages; the Alhambra found today was not built all at once in the same period; it was gradually constructed, with the addition of new building being constructed over time in groups like cells, inspiring the architectural and urban development of the citadel. It tells us so much about the civilization that lived at that time. The grand city of Granada kept testimonies of each period it went through. During the ninth century (9th century), new constructions were being built by the Arabs as their respect towards the Roman cities and roads. The Arab texts stated that the Alhambra was built not long time ago and was facing new constructions from the inside though it was thought that it was built in the roman period or before. Later on, through the eleventh century (11th century), the capital of Granada province was moved from Elvira to Granada with the sponsor of the Zirid Dynasty. That happened after the Caliphate of Cordova civil war. The Ziries settled in their old fortress in the Alcazaba Cadima. It was located in the Albayzin district. The district was occupied with the construction of Kind Dar-al-Horra’s palace throughout the fifteenth century (15th century). The abandoned remains, located on the Sabikah Hill, were renovated by Vizier Samuel ibn Nahgralla where he also built his palace there. Afterwards, during the twelfth century (12th century), brutal and blood-spattered encounters took place in the Alcazaba del Albayzin, and in the buildings of the Alhambra due to the attack of Almorávides and Almohades in Granada. The Alhambra happened to be the shelter for local Andalusians and for the African invaders. In 1238, during the twelfth century (12th century), Al-Ahmar, who was the founder of the Nasrid Dynasty, lived at the old Alcazaba of Albayzin despite the fact the remains on top of the Alhambra hill was an attraction to him. As a result, he insisted on the renovation of the building for the residence of his court. Thus, with the expansion of new periphery and the extension of the citys’ walls until it was later conquered at the late fifteenth century (15th century). The last Islamic sultanate on the Iberian Peninsula and on Granada turned out to be the Nasrid Kingdom. The Muslims were later on forced to exile due to the Christian conquest.

The Palatial City of Alhambra

The great palatial city of Alhambra is divided into several parts which makes it a wonderful and breathtaking palace. The gates of the Alhambra are connected to the wall which gives it the protection from any external attacks. The wall is connected to the main wall which is connected to the main gates. The main gates are called the gate of justice, the gate of the seven floors, the gate of Arrabal, the gate of arms, and the gate of Wine. The gates of arms and Arrabal are located in the north where the gates Justice and the seven floors are located in the south. The gate of justice is the largest gates out of all mentioned. It contains special details where it was built in 1348. The gate of Justice is also called as the gate of Esplanade due to the large pathway that extended before it. Its shape and figure makes it one of the symbols of the great Alhambra. The gate contains three kinds of vaults; “an elongated cross-vault, a cupola and three traditional cross vaults”. These were painted with decorations which was common of the Nasrid architecture. The gate of Seven Floors was built in the fifteenth century (15th century). It is one of the external gates of the Alhambra complex. The Gate of Arrabal shows the way to Sacromonte without passing through Granada. It is linked to the Medina of the Alhambra and to the Generalife; the garden of architect. The gate of arms was built in the thirteenth century (13th century) during the Nasrid period. The gate is related to the “traditional Almohade concept of protective L-shaped passageways”; ornamentally and architecturally wise. Most people used this gate to enter the fortress. At the terrace roof of the gate of the Arms, it has the most spectacular lookout points from all of Alhambra. Architecturally, the gate of Wine is one of the oldest buildings built in the Nasrid Alhambra. It was considered as the inner gate due to the reason it presented direct access to the fortress. It did not require a lot of protection and had enough space for benches and guards to access the entire fortress. The Alcazaba tower of the Alhambra served as a military force. Guards were able to create a strategy to defend outcasts and threats from enemies all the way from the top. At the end of the Tower of Homage, the entrance of the Alcazaba was located. It has a deep and long vault. An L-shaped passage blocks outsiders to see the main gate. At the North, the royal military houses were found where their families also lived there. However, on the other side; there are small warehouses where the other soldiers and guards were lived. Thirdly, the Palace of King and Emperor Charles V shows the victory of Christianity over Islam. It is obvious when you take a look at Charles Palace you’d recognize the difference of the Islamic architecture and the classical roman architecture. He wanted to build a royal residence which resembles the victory of the Catholic Monarchs over a Muslim citadel. Fourthly, the St. Mary church of the Alhambra. The St. Mary church was completed in the seventeenth century (17th century) located on the same position of the mosque of Alhambra. It’s a temple built between fifteen eighty one (1581) and sixteen eighteen (1618). Fifthly, the Museum of the Alhambra and the museum of in “honour of Ángel Barrios”. The museum of Alhambra is located in King Charles V palace and contains many important artifacts, arts, and warehouses. This museum was produced in 1942. However, the Museum of in “honour of Ángel Barrios” consists with various collections of paintings, drawings, and letters dedicated to Ángel Barrios who is a well known musician and composer of Granada. This museum is situated next to the Arab baths of the Mosque which is still enduring. Sixthly, the Court of Machuca. This court encompasses a pool where its shape was like a “Roman nymphaea”. Seventhly, The Mexuar or in arabic “Maswar”. It is also considered as an oratory. This is where the sultans and the councils met to bring and distribute justice. The Mexuar had been modified severally. The hall had a body which looked like a lantern. It helped by providing light to the inside. Only four columns and entablature had been conserved. An upper floor, which was transferred into a chapel, was built in the sixteenth century (16th century). Also, In addition concerning the duties of a Muslim, the gallery of Machuca was a passageway to lead access to the oratory. It was built in a manner that when the people kneel to the window to observe the great breathtaking view of nature. They allowed this marvelous opportunity by lowering the window. Eighthly, the Golden Room; which great decorations and designed was created by Mohammed V. To reach the courtyard to head North towards the Golden room, the horseshoe arched door, which allows one person each time to pass, catches your interest and attention. However, after crossing the door, towards the North is the Golden room which was constructed in the fourteenth century (14th century). It was called as the “Golden Room” due to the reason of the woodwork ceiling. The room was redecorated by the Catholic Monarchs. The function of this Golden Room was to dictate whatever the Sultan had to say including orders and laws. Ninethly, the Façade of Comares. At the opposite of the Golden Room is where the Façade of Comares is located. It was constructed in thirteen seventy (1370) to honor the conquest of Algeciras. The area was well allocated where it separated the private life from the public life; this symbolizes the royalty and the luxury of the site. The decorative ornaments and the combination of the “geometric, epigraphic and floral” work show the “evolution of Andalusian art” by adding patterns of golden triangles and squares. Tenthly, the Court of the Myrtles. Islamic architecture is known for its wide and long courtyards. Guests can tell so much about the mass of the courtyard; the bigger the courtyard, the wealthier the owner is. “The Court of myrtles” derives its name from the mirth which is planted on the long sides of the pond. Mirth is a type of plant which really looks like bushes. At the late sixteenth century (16th century), the court had been enlarged where it was covered with marble. The pool in this lovely courtyard has a major significance in an architectural visual view. The water in the pool reflects the building which generates a projection geometrically. Eleventh, the room of the ship. This room is also known as the Golden Room. At the late sixteenth century (16th century), the ceiling had to be repainted. It is unique of its shape but unfortunately the original shape was destroyed after the fire in 1890. The patterns of the complex frame is made out of pine wood where as the socle is made of various materials including various sorts of tiles. Twelfth, The Chamber of the Embassadors, also known as The Hall of Comares and The Throne Room. It is the highest tower in the Alhambra. The tower is forty five meters tall (45m). Other than being the tallest tower, it has the largest room too. This tower consisted of nine rooms, all being regular rooms except for the central room which was for the Sultan. It was fancily decorated especially for him. The floors, till this day, still have some golden tiles and marble slabs. The room is filled with beauty; the walls are filled with decorations where it was originally painted with bright colors. Whereas the ceiling of the room is packed with epigraphy and religious phrases. The bath of Comares is also another major significance in Islamic architecture. The Muslims took cleanliness and purity as a major value in their daily life. It is a necessity in every Muslim house. Each palace in the Alhambra has its own bath, however The Bath of Comares are usually found next to rooms and behind L-shaped doors. On the other hand, the Christians did change The Bath of Comares by adding a gate. This gate expanded to bayt al-maslaj or apodyterium. The apodyterium is the entrance of the bathroom. It was most famous with the Romans. The bayt al-maslaj or the apodyterium is used as a dressing room or a massage room. In addition, the toilet was separated and right in front of the dressing room was the staircase. This flight of stairs leads to the Room of the Beds. The Hall of the Muqarnas is a room found in The Palace of the Lions. It was considered as the primary entrance of the palace. The room initially had a dome but got destroyed which later got replaced by a statue in the seventeenth century (17th century). Architecturally, The Palace of the Lions is similar to The Palace of the Comares due to its geometric patterns. In addition the Palace of the Lions had the principles of Moorish and Spanish designs; this Palace includes a courtyard, several rooms, and at least one floor other than the ground floor. The most important part of this palace is the fountain found in the middle of the courtyard. It symbolizes many things; it symbolizes the luxurious architecture, beauty, and the difficult water systems of the palace which worked perfectly great over the years. The water system was a great aid to allow the water to flow into a shallow surface. Also, the fountain sink prevented water to splatter out of the fountain. The Fountain of the Lions is the inspiration to the design of the great Alhambra. Mohammed V is the man behind this beautiful structure. He designed this court by having a central fountain with a cross floor plan. He used the traditional Hispanic patterns, arches and columns which the eyes conceives a beautiful relative vision. The Court of the Lion is famous due to its architectural structure. The Hall of the Abencerrages is named due to the legendary act that occurred in the sixteenth century (16th century); the North African families, or the Moors, were invited to a feast and then slaughtered in this very hall. The room is a little above the ground level of The Court of the Lions. The door is beautifully decorated with carved woodwork where behind it is two corridors where one leads to the toilet which no longer exists and the other to the upper ground. The Hall of the bencerrages has a squared floor plan. It also has a marble fountain with twelve sides directly in the middle of the room. The socle was also covered in Seville tiles. These decorations were from the sixteenth century (16th century). The Hall of the Kings in The Palace of the Lions was usually used for celebrations, relaxation, and leisure. The hall is beatified with similar arches found in The Hall of Comares. The room is divided into three square parts. The area consist a portico (porches), alcoves decorated to look like a dome in such a lantern (vault). Also, the paintings found in the room all over tells a story about the previous medieval times. The hall is an interesting part in the Alhambra due to the tiles, decorations, and the techniques applied to allow the light and the shadows to give the space a clearer view. The Ajimeces Gallery consists a complex woodenwork of arched windows which were actually balconies. The Hall of the Two Sister is also an important primary room in the Palace of the Lions. It is named by The Hall of the Two Sisters due to its setting; “two large flagstones lie with a small fountain in between from which water flows along a canal to the Court of the Lions”. The hall is similar to the Hall of the Abencerrages. In this hall, it has the strangest tiled socle in the Alhambra; it is colorful with geometrical patters of complexes laces. Also, the ceiling represents the cave where the Prophet Mohammed received his relevations. The Court of the Vestibule or Observation Point of Daraxa is a balcony which means in Arabic “The eyes of Aisa’s home”. When the power was in the hand of the Nasrids, they used it as a watchtower. The arch of the watchtower is decorated with small tiles which gives it an attractive look. A person may sit on the floor and can view the breathtaking scenery outside dude to the low windows. King Charles V’s Chambers were six. They were constructed due to their astonishment and appreciation of the beauty they lived in. Pedro Machuca designed Kings’ Charles office with included a chimney and a coffered ceiling. The Queen’s Robing Room is unique due to the reason that is one of the halls which is a little different than the structure of the Alhambra towers; it had an Italian sense of tradition where the traditional lantern style came to be as the Queen’s Robing Room. The Court of the Grated Window is called by that due to the grated lining balcony. It was constructed to guard the rooms and to act as a pathway. A small fountain is found in the middle of hall where also The Hall of the Ship can be seen through the gap in the western wall. The Court of the Lindaraja is a more simple structure. It is named as The Court of the Lindaraja due to open air sight. The partal palace portico is like a porch which overlooks the pool. It is the oldest part of the Alhambra which is still standing till this day and because it was counted as a part of the Alhambra a century ago. Also, the partal chapel is said to be built my Yusuf I due to the style of decoration. It was used for the Sultans meditation and prayers. During the fourteenth century (14th century), the Partal Dwellings, a group of four-storey houses, were constructed. They were considered as a part of the Palace Portico. The Rauda or the cemetery was found beside the Palace of the Lions. By the time of the discovery of the tombs in the nineteenth century (19th century), they were practically empty. The gate of the cemetery was in a quadrangular shape where a dome and trompe l’oeil painting in red bricks was found. Both palaces, the rauda and the palace of the lion, were connected during the construction of the Alhambra. “The qubba” as in the pavilion consists an opening of steel arches on three angles. A little bit away from the Partal Gardens and the palaces of the great Alhambra, is the Palace of Yusuf III. What brings the Palace of Yusuf III the attention is the long pool in the middle of the courtyard. What bring up the palace are the remains of the walls. The walls formed a terrace with a magnificent view. The Promenade of the towers consists of several towers, in a form of milestones such as The Tower of the Pointed Battlements, The Tower of the Cadí, the Captive’s Tower, The Infants’ Tower, The Career Corporal’s Tower and the Water Tower. The Tower of the Pointed Battlements was used to guard the generalife. As of the Captive tower, it represented the Nasrid style. It is the most decoratively completed structure in the Alhambra.

Architecture of the Alhambra

The architecture of the Alhambra, including the inside and the outside walls, is out of this world. The materials used to construct the Alhambra were bricks (made of fine gravel and clay), which was whitewashed. The pool in one of the courtyards act as an infinity mirror and the whole of the palace looks like it is suspended in the water. Every detail of the palace decoration seem to be part of a scheme and a system, complex geometric pattern are carved into the wood work of the walls and windows. They wanted to bring out the scene of the heavens. It has a sense of a harmonious feeling. The men who built it had knowledge of complex geometry. Professor Antonio Fernandez-Puertas studied the building Alhambra his whole life. He was the one whom discovered that the whole of the building from the grand plan to the walls decoration of the building is based around one single ratio. The king wanted to build a new palace of his own, but he had a limited space or area towards the west, east, and south. He came up with a genius yet simple idea to create this marvelous and enchanting building. The king of Granada asked his architects to construct the building according to a single set of proportions of rectangles. Each rectangle is related to the other rectangle. In order to get proportional rectangles, you’d need the same length of base. Then take the diagonal of the triangle and put it up in a straight vertical line and you would get a consecutive proportional rectangle. Basically, the relation of the ground between the elevations of the Alhambra was the basic idea of its design. In addition, in the Alhambra premises, the former Monastery of San Francisco still stands till today and is now a hotel. Also, since it’s mostly considered as a part of Islamic architecture, the designs used in this structure are words from the Quran, flowers and other lifeless objects. The reason why they used lifeless objects is because Islam forbids using the humanlike designs.

Water Network

The architects did not only work with the construction, but also with the gardens, water, and light. A man called Abdulrahman, whom tribe was masticated, survived by escaping this terrible act. He ended up in Cordova. Abdulrahman helped to build a great city. He brought up the great irrigation system where agriculture became a part of the great Cordova. They had major types of fruits and palm trees which increased their economy and made them very wealthy people. Water is used greatly in this building. They had to construct water courses from the Darro River. The river was six kilometer away from the site. Water was necessary for life at the palace, such as drinking, irrigation, and other uses.

Significance of the Alhambra

The Alhambra shows much great significance. Generally in the world of architecture, “a good building” must gratify the three principles of “firmitatis, utilitatis, venustatis”, which is in other words “durability, utility, and beauty”; the great building Alhambra is still standing up and is in a great condition till this day. It is functioning well, where the tourists enjoy the great sightseeing and the wonderful breathtaking architecture. The Alhambra is not just an ordinary building, but it is also an inspiration to all human kind; it is pleasurable for the entire community to visit, learn, and enjoy it all at once. The Alhambra is the product of an evolutionary process for over more than two and a half centuries, during the time in power of the Nasrids, and includes structures predating that time as well as important contributions and modifications during the Christian era, which continues to this day. The Alhambra is also only one of its kinds due to its architectural wealth, which blend in well with the great city of Granada, and its spectacular scenery. It is recognized with its simple architecture but with complex geometric interior designs.

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