Islamic Architecture
Documentary on Religion and Architecture
Hi All,
I am a Documentary Researcher in his final dissertation for an MA in Documentary Research for Film and Television at the London College of Communication.
I am researching for a Documentary aimed at finding the connection between Religious roots (also as cultural roots) and the work of Architects. Buildings don't have to be necessarily with religious purposes. What I would like to prove is that there is a connection between the way an Architect express his/her creativity and his/her personal religious belief.
I am in the very early stage of this research, so I would really appreciate any kind of feedback on this topic.
Thank you very much to everyone who'll find the time to answer to my post.

Giorgio Olivari
Giorgio Olivari
Documentary on Religion and Architecture
Giorgio Olivari,

I have studied what has been termed as 'fetish' in 'primitive' religion, mainly in Japan, a type of cult where deities are built with reed and bamboo, then burnt in the framework of 1 or 2 days in front of the wooden shrine building.

Of course this fits badly in regard to Japanese culture, which is considered a highly civilized society with a refined history and a high standing art complex.

The great discovery of these studies (documentation of 100 villages in central Japan, see Egenter 1994) consists in the fact that these sacred rites have an important substructure rooted in a Neolithic territorial system of "nuclear border demarcations", or "settlement core complex".

In fact these divine figures are the foundation symbols made with reed of a non-settled region to start an agrarian settlement and since this demarcation 'legally' supports and archives the local hegemony of the founder house it had to be cyclically (once a year) renewed in the same form to preserve it in time.

There is a second important element: in its initial condition of forming such a sign with rooted material, it autonomously produces an aesthetic condition which can be called PRO-portion, or 'categorical polarity' the upper part remaining mobile and natural, the lower part being technically fixed and consequently stable. In this regard it is a "biologically living building" alluding to an architectural "myth" often heard in architectural circles around the famous German architect Bruno Taut. Not only this, the elementary aesthetic principle produced with a simple grip of the hand can be seen as a basic principle of aesthetics which is still vital in historic architecture of many cultures, e.g. in Ionian and Korinthian columns of Greece, or in the many types of 'square and arc' as it appears in portals or windows in many styles of monumental architecture.

If we assume that such 'nuclear borders' (they are set up in the center of the settlement, not along the outlines!) existed for some thousands of years during Mesolithic and Neolithic times in many regions of the world, we could think that these "semantic types of architecture" had a great influence on the formation of human culture, being models of aesthetic creations (tools and instruments, dwellings and other vernacular architecture, clothing, cosmetics etc.), organization of the habitat ("woods and fields", "mountains and valley" etc,), models of cognition (polarity, Yin-Yang symbolism) and philosophy (individually differentiated form and general principle) and very likely also religion ( spatially extended aesthetics as meta-physical principle, harmony of above and below, of heaven an earth).

Not only this, it is fairly plausible that - in a transitional phase from nomadic existence - they "created" sedentary life and agricultural production within stable settlement clusters, each village having its own social "hierarchy" based on a functional principle, the foundation of the territory by the village founder.

Finally we gain a new position to critically look at civilization processes: what do we get in terms of new knowledge, if we assume that early civilizations had used this model, lifting it on a larger scale? Using palaces, and later the main city in its center as an analogy, extending the new surface over the village clusters that had formed independently with their autonomous territorial system. This same system being used on a larger spatial scale to bring these villages under early state control, a political constitution generally known as 'theocracy'.

The global anthropological extension of the principles found in Japan (and, later, during research in India) is justified by the global sources documented in prehistory and early history (tree of life), in ethnology (fetish, reported globally by missionaries) and in folklore (maypole).

I have myself made a documentary movie which could be used as a documentary material. There are also a lot of photographic materials on the theme. Books and other publications are listed in our website. My e-mail address can be found there:

Best regards,
Nold Egenter
Documentary on Religion and Architecture
very interesting and informative NOLD , i am sure Giorgio should also try to get information about ancient science of VASTU practiced by old architects around in asia.....great sub.
Dushyant Nathwani
Documentary on Religion and Architecture
Hey, i actually did a report on almost the same topic. I am trying to do a thesis on the fact that we as people need to have our cultural or religious roots exhibited in our lives and when one is missing... in the case of most newly artificially developed Muslims state.. we tend to go towards religion, and most of the time in its fundamental and purist forms.
If you want i could share that report with you..
Varda Nisar
Documentary on Religion and Architecture
Varda, I am very curious about your report - it is a fascinating topic given the contradictions in so many urban landscapes like Dubai, and even Islamabad. I would be very interested in reading your thoughts on the issues. Please feel free to email me:

Also, Giorgio, I would be very curious what sort of sources you come up with - perhaps you can share in the document section a bibliography - it would be very helpful. As you may be aware, many human geographers engage such issues. You might be interested in the work of Yi Fu Tuan, particularly his "Space and Place: the perspective of experience".
Chad Haines
Documentary on Religion and Architecture
Hi Varda... it would be very interesting to hear your position on the topic.. if it possible for you, email me at

Thank you
Giorgio Olivari
Documentary on Religion and Architecture
Ofcourse, i need not tell you about the relation between ancient Egyptian Architecture (The Pyramids) and Ancient Egyptian Religion!

Tell me more how i can help in this regard.
Abdulrahman El-Taliawi
Documentary on Religion and Architecture
giorgio you can look at the works of luis barragan. he is a mexican architect and he used a lot of christian symbolism esp the cross in his works. his work is also a great example of regionalism so he created what he was most influenced by. you should definitely check him out.
Aiman Aijaz
Documentary on Religion and Architecture

You may already have watched this documentary perhaps, but nonetheless if you haven't I feel it may be of significance.

This is the first part, there are three more parts.

Also it would be interesting to study the Architecture that was commissioned during the military regime of General Zia in Pakistan who was a Muslim fanatic. He started an Islamization movement in Pakistan, that made it compulsory for architects to adopt or adapt some features of Islamic Architecture in their design.
Andaleeb Rizvi


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