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Building Technology
 
Masonry pendentives and muqarnas
I want to build a real world, real scale small building (iwan) with real masonry and have muqarnas pendentives or similar squinches. Can anyone help?

I am an intern architect in Florida and wish to build a small "pavilion" as a means to learning the techniques of ancient Persian or other middle east. dome, muqarnas vaulting construction. Do you know of any available books or pamphlets showing actual construction methodology and detailed drawings of how the masonry is placed in ancient Islamic construction?

I have found no articles or books explaining how the Indian Iwan or stalactite vaulting or squinching is physically accomplished with brick or stone. I am especially interested in the pendentive-to-dome or muqarnas methods seen in the great mosques such as those at the Shah Abbas Complex in Isfahan; the Taj Majal in India and other extraordinary works of Islam. I have a few books with drawings showing plans and surficial information, but none with appropriate sections or construction/explanation details. No one seems to know about the actual step by step method in placing the brick. I have the book, "Islamic Architecture" by Hillenbrand and "The Architectural History of India" by Christopher Tadgell but there are no detailed sections or detailed diagrams showing the masonry coursing or placement in the domes or pendentives.

Could you help steer me in a direction where the first part of my dream of matching the ancient construction techniques in a small pavilion could come true? I would like to show the beauty of the ancient Islamic techniques. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

P.S. I've seen many photos but much of the real buildings are covered in tile which somewhat obscures the actual construction of the pendendives holding up the domes.

Any help would be appreciated,
Michael Polka
Responses
 
Masonry pendentives and muqarnas
Michael, European Gothic Architecture uses pendentive (hanging) vaults and domes made of both stone and wood.

The Iwan uses a semi-spherical vault or dome and I imagine the construction is similar, because the laws of physics (gravity, etc) apply to both.

In addition to looking at original Gothic Architecture design, you should read the architectural works by Viollet-le-Duc. I have these two books which are reprints by Dover Pubs Inc, USA.:)

Another way of approaching this issue is a look at the work of Gaudi, who designed his parabolic arches using models of upside down chains. :)
Frank John Snelling
Masonry pendentives and muqarnas
Michael, Oops! I forgot to mention the basic design feature which "corbelling" or building upwards (usually in stone) with a small overhang at each level. :)
Frank John Snelling
Masonry pendentives and muqarnas
Michael,

Contact Prof. Dr. Mehrdad Hejazi at the Centre for Traditional Structures at the University of Isfahan in Iran.

He's on the web. I'm sure they will have all the expertise you need.

Cheers,

Matthew Hardy.
Matthew Hardy
Masonry pendentives and muqarnas
John Frank Snelling:

Thanks for the info. I know that LeDuc used iron in his buildings too but I suppose the gen. principles are the same. I will check it out. I have never run accross any diagrams showing the masonry "coursing" at this time. Maybe Violet will show the way. Thanks.
Michael Polka
Masonry pendentives and muqarnas
Dear Mr. Hardy:

Thanks for the info. Prof. Dr. Mehrdad Hejazi of Isfahan is precisely who I have been in contact with. He was very helpful in that he provided me with a disk of dozens of beautiful Iranian masonry buildings. I am still pursuing technical knowledge enough to enable me to really build a solid masonry iwan and muqarnas vault dome. Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,
Michael Polka
Masonry pendentives and muqarnas
Michael,

A corbel is simply a stone projecting out from the one below. The capitals of stone columns are corbels.

Corbelling allows stonework to either enclose the top of an opening (window, doorway) or projecting outwards to widen an upper floor. The crenallated battlements on castle walls often had corbels just underneath to widen the walkway along the top of the wall.

For timber, in Tudor and Elizabethan England, wooden housing had overhangs or jetties, so that each storey was larger than the one below. This same phenomena can also be seen in Ottoman timber-frame housing here in Turkey.

In fact, Iwans are very large corbelled niches. I photographed the absolutely enormous Iwans which front the great mosques in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Frank John Snelling
Masonry pendentives and muqarnas
Dear Mr. Snelling:

Thank you very much for contributing to my question. Part of your response, "In fact, iwans are very large corbelled niches," leads me to ask, are most of the Uzbek or Iranian pendentives and muqarnas corbelled or isn't there arcuation working in the squinch area as well? Looking at many of the photos, it appears that most of the transitions are smooth and curving which suggests an arcuated brickwork rather than merely corbelling. The ancient Maya never learned true arcuation and had many masonry failures as a result (though they did have corbelled masonry arches).
Michael Polka
Masonry pendentives and muqarnas
Michael, Hmm yes, I think what you mean by "arcuated brickwork", you mean is "arched brickwork"? Arched brickwork would mean that there is a keystone at the top holding everything together. I would need a closeup photo to check that. In maybe that the Iwan is both arch and corbel and the "Iwan corbel" is also angled like an arch stone.

"Smooth and curving surfaces on the Iwan" may only be the surface finish. Remember, the amazing "hanging stones" or pendentives in medieval vaulting are just decoration and not functional.
Frank John Snelling
Masonry pendentives and muqarnas
Dear Mr Polka,

Maybe you can use more original detail in stone: as found in the Red pyramid and in Bent pyramid (2700 years BC) or in sacred well in Sardegna, Santa Cristina from 800 BC. There you can find perfect stone masonry, and it can be nice example for the theory itself.

Maybe you can find some interesting details in: Kamen na Kamen / Stone upon Stone (www.i2-lj.si) and in http://www.stoneshelter.org under 'construction'. I wish you all the success.
Borut Juvanec
Masonry pendentives and muqarnas
dEAR Borut Juvanec,

tHANK YOU for your response. As stated in my original post, I am trying to avoid any theory if at all possible. I really would like to find any kind of drawings, schematics, or descriptions of how the masonry is shaped and placed in order to create the pendentives, squinches, and muquarnas. Current masonry books show groin vaulting, dome building on circular tie beams, or, similar to Hassan Fathy's Egyptian work, angled arch vaulting. No book I have seen shows the actual masonry coursing or cutting in order to create the pendentives leading to a circular dome. Perhaps the secrecy of the ancient masons is no myth?
Michael Polka
Masonry pendentives and muqarnas
Michael,

I've been in love with muqarnas for years and am convinced that someone will bring them into the 21st century with the concommitant technology. You can see various novel muqarnas forms in my image library. I created them with the 3D SW package Maya from Alias.

The link is:

http://archnet.org/pvt/image-collections/collection.jsp?collection_id=39952
Daniel Owen
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