Islamic Architecture
A space inspired by Islamic geometries for contemplation
Patterns are ever present in all places, in both the natural and man-made world . The interest of human for pattern making is an ongoing process. A range of patterns have been produced within architectural and design contexts, some of which were deployed for function and/or ornamentation. Both European and Islamic traditions were influenced by religion, geometry and mathematics to construct basis for their art and design . The concepts and theories to organize spatial patterns were based on order, scale, proportion, symmetry, beauty, complexity, unity, representation, symbolism, rhythm and harmony . These notions were undoubtedly employed in theorising Islamic geometry. However, apart from the aesthetics of spatial patterning, they were historically produced to conceptually convey symbolism, philosophy and theory related to the Islamic culture, tradition and religious beliefs to enhance the meanings behind their beauty and balance. Every pattern frame evolves from grids and sub-grids of intersecting circles (geometrical plane figures symbolizing Unity), which can then develop into a multitude of patterns to signify a meaning .For example, by placing six identical circles around a central one is the ideal representation of the six days of the Holy Quran’s creation .

In this project, I explore this religious art of pure ornament that encompasses three main styles of patterns: geometric patterning; which is the focus of my research; refers to harmony, symmetry, and intricate designs that speak of infinity and centrality; arabesque, which comes in an idealised plant form to represent Paradise and Islamic Gardens; and calligraphy that communicate Arabic inscriptions in an abstract form . These creations form a vital factor in Muslim religious sensibilities as they encode messages on the various aspects of Islam, making it seemingly more than just an element of beautification and colour, but an abstract language of their beliefs. The Islamic society embraced the formal facts of worship mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and deeds of the Prophet (Hadith) to shape their culture. Since art and architecture craft an imperative segment of configuration to Islamic communities, they were informed through the interpretations of sacred phrases and visions in the religion.

The concept behind the design investigates the representation of contemporary Islamic practice in a secular and divine context. It explores the idea of creating a place for prayer, but also a space for contemplation and experience inspired by ornament, structure and geometry that is open to all visitors. The hybrid form will convey a present-day approach that re-interprets the set of design principles derived from the study of Islamic art and architecture history. This enables a conceptual continuity with past Islamic creativity, while considering suggestions of spatial transformations that respond to the Western as well as the Islamic social, political, economical and technological changes that took place over time. By designing a space, in which its structure and overall form incorporate newly created geometries that originate from Islamic patterning, I ultimately aspire to create a physical as well as a meta-physical experience of embodying these geometrical elements. Aroused by the Godly call of unity and serene coexistence between human societies, which in fact includes all people no matter their differences , the concept of the space is aimed to encourage all Muslims and non-Muslims to come together and exchange ideas on both secular and sacral programs within the same space. “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other” (Qur’an 49:13).

It is often that the construction of sacred places, specifically Islamic buildings, in Western societies raises great controversy that could sometimes prevent the design from being implemented and this is proven through various mosque projects being neglected, such as the proposal for Britain’s largest mosque near the 2012 Olympic site . These issues arose due to the biased and politicized representations of Islam, which in fact are a result of misinterpretation on various levels . Several discussions by specialists on ‘the fundamental yet controversial issue of the term ‘Islamic art’’ that has raised further questioning on the appreciation of such a diverse and complex form of art that incorporates a range of principles to be perceived without the religious aspects of it representing a secular position that nevertheless is shaped through the intangible matters of faith . Hence, by basing the design of the space on principles of deconstructing present perceptions and negative stereotypes of Islam , I anticipate that international societies will consent to reflect upon their beliefs among each other through knowledge and communication. Therefore, the space will hopefully act as common ground to contribute to peaceful awareness and cross-cultural understanding of sacred art and geometry between people on an international level through architecture and interior Islamic methodologies. The aim is to celebrate Islamic design and also show others (in this case perhaps the people in the UK) the beauty and complexity of the elements that shape Islamic designs. Considering the proposed site for the space is located in the centre of the city, Hyde Park representing London’s historic landscapes, which will assist in suggesting a beginning of intercultural dialogue through architecture and design.

As for the formal structures of the space, its development and materialisation was informed through practical experiments carried within the design studio. The process involved translating patterns found on interior dome surfaces of mosques into a variety of patterns, this required careful interpretation and understanding of the methods in which this geometry was developed and tweaked together onto a domed structure. An accurate step-by-step analysis and tracing of each pattern enabled a coherent appreciation and identification of the mathematical and geometrical methods associated with the articulation of formal units to create symmetry and balance. Islamic patterns have specific geometries that are broken down through the transformations generated from folding each traced pattern into a wide range of new forms and 3 dimensional spaces. Hence, the new shapes invariably inherited their own geometries and ornamentation. Following this progression has emphasized the structure of the dome, particularly when folds gave a sphere-like shape. Each fold dictated the next one, providing a wide range of possibilities each pattern generates.

The process reflects back in to the project, in the sense that the embellishments that were once covering the structural units of the domes are now transformed into various possibilities to be both ornament and structure seamlessly combined. The micro-investigations of folding are explored further through technological aid with the aim to take these traditional representative patterns away from their origin of being Islamic. Even though the fold, the edge and the crease of the line have broken the order of the conventional, the process of folding is yet considered a traditional method done by the hand. As it has been discussed by specialist practitioners that the use of digital generation in the present and future of architecture and design is fundamental in the way that it shall broaden the extent in which patterns can be used to create dynamic, aesthetic, effective and symbolic spatial pattern design systems . It is further explained that technological ability of organising and re-designing patterns is continuously breaking through as more multi-critical and multidisciplinary than their historical view of sometimes being solely elements of ornamentation . So, in favour of digital creativity, a camera device with additional mirror reflective effects was utilized to develop animated movements of re-folding the already folded 3 dimensional paper maquettes. Each study model was rotated quarterly at 360 degrees, from left to right and right to left at a distance of 550mm from the lens. A variety of digital frames were produced, however, the five most visually intriguing images were taken onto the next step of choosing a single one of them. The chosen frame is traced to allow an understanding of the folds and new positions of original lines. Once the new geometries and forms are observed, their magnitude to translate into interior architectural spaces evolves towards the creation of unique experiences to people inhabiting it in spectacle and sensorial terms.
Zeina al-Ahmad
A space inspired by Islamic geometries for contemplation
I would like to recieve opinions on the program of the project.

i would like to hear responses from MUSLIMS and NON-MUSLIMS, reflecting upon your own individuality, religion,experiences and background, how would you expect yourself to experience the space? structure and geometry embodiment ? spiritual? or both? if one of them or both you believe will be achieved explain why and how? if one or neither, explain what would you expect in order to experience it in such terms.

i would greatly appreciate your contributions, as this is a study im doing at the university for my masters final project.

all the best
Zeina al-Ahmad
A space inspired by Islamic geometries for contemplation
i do understand it is a lot to read, but i need to explain the project well, if anyone viewing this believes i need to provide a short brief please notify me.
looking forward to hearing your responses.
Zeina al-Ahmad
A space inspired by Islamic geometries for contemplation
Hi Zeina, perhaps a shorter abstract of your project will indeed help you get more feedback. I hope as people read it the discussions you require will open up for you.

I think yourstudy is very interesting but also feel that perhaps it might be too broad a study area. A detailed study of either one of your three main areas would make a very good survey on its own, but that is only a thought.

In your study of geometric patterning you might find it useful to useful to check out the influence of Islam on fractal architecture and settlement planning in Africa. I'm sorry I dont have any references to offer you on this but I did come across some information a while looking into fractal architecture in Africa that might help you.

I hope I could help. All the best.
Augustine Owusu-Ansah
A space inspired by Islamic geometries for contemplation
Hi Zeina, thank you of your interesting proposal, me too some days ago I just published some lines about Peter Lu's contribution to the understanding of medieval Islamic geometry. I hope to send you soon some suggestions.
Nicolas Coviello
A space inspired by Islamic geometries for contemplation
very interesting ,i know one person and artist NASREEN of india[vadodara school]who passed away few years back,having his work at modern art gallery[NW].....follow simple and sufi concept to elevate har conciousness to such an extent that her appartment had only two colours WHITE and BLACK,inclusive all gadgets....she latter in the life worked only throgh lines and created master three d spaces.....i feel nostalgic.....may you get inspiration to explore more.
Dushyant Nathwani
A space inspired by Islamic geometries for contemplation
Hi Zeina,
given the dates of the previous communications you may well have finished your course by now; if not I would like to suggest a possible source for you to explore further.A doctoral project was undertaken in 2006/2007 by B.G.Thomas at Leeds University (Yorkshire, UK).An exhibition of forms 'Tiling and Polyhedra'formed part of the study and this was accompanied by a published monograph "Patterns in the Plane and Beyond: Symmetry in Two and Three Dimensions" B.G. Thomas and M.A. Hann. Whilst the student may have now moved on, I believe the supervising lecturer (M.A.Hann)continues in the textiles department of the university; I believe it may be of interest to you both to make contact.
I hope this suggestion is of some use and bears fruit.
Andy Sames
Andrew Sames


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