The principle objectives of this essay would be to highlight the key characteristics of Islamic architecture and interior design. It will also bring to notice how they have become distinctive features of the particular architectural style. Commencing by examining its genesis, the essay will continue to traverse through the geographical contrasts that brought about great diversity in the art of Islamic design in various parts of the world along with the political and religious factors that affected it’s spread. Islamic decoration will then be inspected under several sub-topics with examples for better understanding of the information provided. Finally, the analysis of orientalism is to be indicated with the help of more examples.
The Quba Mosque in Saudi Arabia was the first ever mosque recorded to be built on the foundations laid by the Prophet himself. His first pause for rest on the journey from Mecca to Medina was made on the outskirts of Medina, where he decided to make place for worship and began to act on the construction of the first mosque. It stands prestigious today, as the second largest mosque after the Grand mosque in Mecca. The mosque consists of nineteen entrances in total of which seven are major entrances. The courtyard contains a prayer hall. There are fifty-six domes and nine minerats which are main elements of Islamic architecture discussed further on. Prophet Muhammad’s disciples gained immense success in carrying the faith to non believers along with the overpowering of their military against other nations. This spread led to the building of more mosques, residential spaces and other constructions in many other localities which sustain the unique architectural factors from the most primary Islamic architecture which began in between 500 to 680 AD. The first dynasty to ever be established was founded by Al-Mawiyah in Damascus, Syria making the Ummayads the first clan to do so.
Ummayad Caliph Abd Al-Malik built Qubbat Al-Sakrah in Jerusalem in the 690 AD which is also called the Dome of the Rock, the place where prophet Muhammad recieved instructions from God to initiate the religion which marks a remarkable occasion in the faith (Rabbat, 1989, p12). In 1545, Ottoman Sultan Suleyman added beautiful Iznik tiles to this mosque. The blue tiles and the golden dome represented the prosperity of the Islamic world as they began to flourish with wealth.
Built in between 705-715 AD by the Ummayad Caliph Al-Walid I, the Great Mosque of Damascus is believed to be the only stone mosque to have lasted till date. It is composed with a large open courtyard encircled by an arcade and lean coloumns. A dome in the shape of an octagon is placed right above the cross point between three long aisles dividing the prayer hall. Geometric designs are made of heavy use on the prayer rugs and the marble window grills and mosaic depictions of paradise are displayed on the walls.
As such Islamic structures were being constructued, several other features became characteristic in the world of Muslim architecture. The Caliphs made themselves luxury lodges along oases in the deserts where it is said they would use them as pleasure palaces also importantly, as a halt for traders travelling down the most common routes of business. Frescoes and mosaics were prime features in these buildings.Between 723 to 743, Walid Ibn Yazid built the Qasr Amra in Jordan which presents Islamic palatial architecture and decoration. It comprises of a an audience and of three barrel-vaulted aisles parted using pointed transverse arches. It has some rooms garnished with mosaic and others with amazing marble. It is a fascinating fact that it supports a hydraulic composite for a bath complex. The walls and ceilings are ornamented with fresco paintings. Originally built as watch towers, minarets assisted travellers as guides by providing light. The first appearance of a minaret was believed to be seen shortly after creating of mosques in the Islamic cities.
Today’s function of a minaret was performed on what is called a “”muezzius”” previously. Minaret of Jam was built in the 1153-1203 in Afghanistan at 60m in height with inscriptions from the Quran decorated around it. Moorish architecture developed as the Islamic faith was being extended towards Spain and the north of Africa. It sets forth characteristics such as horseshoe arches and honeycombed vaults through which the style of architecture is easily identified. In 711 after the Muslims conquered Spain, Abd Al-Rahman I built the great mosque of Cordoba in 784 marking the start of Moorish architecture in the Iberian Peninsula. The site to begin with was a Basillic of San Vicente, Abderraman I demolished it and constructed the mosque. It contains of two parts, the courtyard and the prayer hall. The interior has an incredible multihue red and white due to the colours of the stones used for the building. These are types of building that are of Islamic architectural qualities but not necessarily sacred or religious which were however considered as paradise on Earth.