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Dictionary Of Islamic Architecture


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Dictionary Of Islamic Architecture


Iwans are most commonly associated with Islamic architecture; however, the form is pre-Islamic Iranian in origin and was invented much earlier and fully developed in Mesopotamia around the third century CE, during the Parthian period.


The feature which most distinctly makes the iwan a landmark development in the history of Ancient Near Eastern architecture is the incorporation of a vaulted ceiling. A vault is defined[by whom] as a ceiling made from arches, known as arcuated, usually constructed with stone, concrete, or bricks.[12][failed verification] Earlier buildings would normally be covered in a trabeated manner, with post and lintel beams. However, vaulted ceilings did exist in the ancient world before the invention of the iwan, both within Mesopotamia and outside it. Mesopotamian examples include Susa, where the Elamites vaulted many of their buildings with barrel vaults, and Nineveh, where the Assyrians frequently vaulted their passages for fortification purposes.[13]


Outside Mesopotamia, a number of extant vaulted structures stand, including many examples from Ancient Egypt, Rome, and the Mycenaeans. For example, the Mycenaean Treasury of Atreus, constructed around 1250 BCE, features a large corbelled dome. Ancient Egyptian architecture began to use vaulting in its structures after the Third Dynasty, after around 2600 BCE, constructing very early barrel vaults using mud bricks.[14]


Islamic art and architecture was also heavily influenced inspired by Roman, Byzantine, and Sasanian designs, both due to the presence of extant examples and contact between cultures. For example, the Great Mosque of Damascus was built in the early eighth century CE on the site of a Roman Christian church, and incorporates a nave-like element with a tall arcade and clerestory. The Sasanian Empire also had a tremendous impact on the development of Islamic architecture; however, there was some overlap between the Sasanians and the Muslims making it difficult at times to determine who was influencing whom.[31] Islamic art and architecture borrowed many Sasanian decorative motifs and architectural forms, including the iwan.


Iwans were used frequently in Islamic non-religious architecture before the twelfth century, including houses, community spaces, and civic structures such as the bridge of Si-o-Se Pol in Isfahan.[32] Furthermore, Islamic architecture incorporated the Sasanian placement for the iwan by making it a grand entrance to the prayer hall or to a mosque tomb, and often placing it before a domed space.[33] The iwan became common in Islamic religious architecture from the twelfth century onward.[34][35]


Within the Islamic world the iwan was especially important in the architecture of Central Asia and Greater Iran, but it was also adopted into the local architectural traditions of other regions. It was highly adaptable and it appears in a variety of contexts and in different configurations.[35] Iwans could be placed along the sides of the interior courtyards of buildings, as they were in many madrasas, or on the exterior of buildings, as at the Taj Mahal and other Mughal mausoleums.[19][34] Under the Ayyubids and Mamluks, who ruled Egypt and the Levantine region, it became a common feature of madrasa architecture, although in Cairo the vaulted iwans of earlier periods were replaced with flat-roofed iwans in the later Mamluk period.[36][37] Starting in the late 13th and 14th centuries, the word iwan in Mamluk Egypt itself seems to have been become more restricted, on the one hand, to secular architecture while, on the other hand, it was used in this context to denote large domed structures in addition to vaulted halls.[38] The celebrated monumental throne hall of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad was thus called the Great Iwan (al-Iwan al-Kabir) even though its main element was a domed hall, not a vaulted hall.[38]


The four-iwan plan (cruciform) is one of the most characteristic floor plans of Islamic arc




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