A WALK THROUGH ARABIC ARCHITECTURE
Never heard about “MASHRABIYA” before! That’s ok…..
Let’s treat ourselves with a quick walk through the STREETS OF ARAB … and admire this heritage of Arabic architecture.
MASHRABIYA is typically a type of Bay window masking the upper floors of a traditional Arabic building or an Arabic house. It is an integral part of Arab lifestyle since ages and an element of sustainable architecture ornamented with beautiful lattice work and occasionally with stained glass.
It sounds similar to the Harem window in English and serves similar purpose as Rajputi JHAROKHA-. It was designed to ensure the psychological, physical, social, environmental and religious requirements of the time and place in which they appear.
IN LITERAL TERMS
Mashrabiya (Arabic: مشربية) is known with names like tarima, shanashil, shanshūl (شنشول) or rūshān (روشان). The most recognize theory about the origin of the term “Mashrabiya” comes from Arabic literature. It is derived from ‘sharaba’, means ‘to drink’ in Arabic. The place designated to Mashrabiya was usually used to store drinking water pots as the window as a means of ventilation helped the water to remain cool for longer period of time.
TRAVELLING THROUGH PAST…
This Islamic architectural feature shares a vast history dating back to 12th century and Middle ages. Historical records shows their presence in most part of the Middle Eastern cities, Baghdad, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Malta and other Saudi region.
With the arrival of 20th century, Arab underwent a huge modernization program which leads to the demolition of various historical Islamic architectural features along with Mashrabiyas. But this vernacular architecture is later uplifted back by Arabic arts communities, renowned architects like Rifat Chadirji and artist Lorna Selim, who played major role in revival of beautiful Mashrabiyas.
Their initiatives have done a huge contribution in survival, restoration and celebration of such prominent element which is – Traditional, Beautiful and Sustainable.
MASHRABIYAS ALL OVER MIDDLE EAST…
Mashrabiyas are a part of ancient architecture found in typical Arabic houses. Time also allows changes in the earlier structure of Mashrabiya and turned a Bay window into a highly decorative enclosed balcony.
This marvelous structure of Eastern Arab, was present all over Baghdad, Iran and Iraq. In 14th century, Mashrabiyas gained huge attention of architects and craftsmen especially in Cairo, Egypt. They were transformed from just a store space into a comfortable cozy corner of the house. They were fitted with cushioned beds or sometimes portable seating allowing the occupants to recline in cool privacy and gazing down at the Arabian streets without actually being seen.
MASHRABIYA FROM MOROCCO-
MASHRABIYA FROM YAMAN-//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
MASHRABIYA FROM CAIRO, EGYPT-//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
MASHRABIYA FROM CAIRO, EGYPT-//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
MASHRABIYA FROM MALTA, EUROPE-
They were expensive and thus at first limited to the palaces of rulers and the homes of the wealthier merchants as an outward sign of success. Later, they were incorporated in Arabic buildings, Mosques, hospitals, schools and other government buildings. They became an eminent part of urban elite houses of Arab.
ROLE OF MASHRABIYA
Mashrabiya became a popular source of ventilation in dense urban areas of Arab because of their presence on upper stories as thus creating zero hindrance in traffic in the busy streets of Arab. Mashrabiyas are not just a window but a multifaceted architectural element. They served multiple purpose like:
- PRIVACY –
In Arabic and Muslim culture, privacy or pardah is an essential part of culture especially for women. Mashrabiya window screened with jalis helped the residents to have a good view of street without being seen.
2. STORAGE –
The extra space of Mashrabiya provide an excellent space for storing drinking water pots in sufficiently enough ventilated space in hot environment of Arab. Usually qulla, a pottery water jar was placed in mashrabiya for passive cooling.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
3. HEAT BUSTER –
Wooden or Glass screens controls the passage of sunlight and provide protection from hot arid climate of Arab, while allowing the cool air from the street to flow through.
4. SUSTAINABILITY –
The designs of the latticework usually have smaller openings in the bottom part and larger openings in the higher parts. This provides a significant amount of air moving in the room without causing it to be uncomfortable. The air-conditioning properties of the window is typically enhanced by placing jars of water in the area, allowing air to be cooled as it passes over the jars.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
5. SHADE –
Mashrabiya also provides protection and shade for the ground floor windows that are flat and usually unprotected. Thus maintaining overall temperature of the building.
6. CORRECTING THE FOOTPRINT SHAPE OF LAND –
Due to winding and irregular streets, plots of land are also commonly irregular in shape, while the house designs are regular squares and rectangles. This would result in irregular shapes of some rooms and create dead corners and unconventional spaces. The projecting components of Mashrabiya allows the shapes of the rooms on the upper floors to be corrected, and thus the entire plot of land to be utilized. It also increases the usable space without increasing the plot size.
7. AESTHETICS FOR FACADE–
Made from wood and crafted with stained glass or intricate latticework provide a great exterior facade. These latticework is been a source of inspiration for modern latticework used in creating partitions or panels.
8. CREATING A COZY SPACE –
When fitted with cushioned beds or sometimes portable seating, Mashrabiya turns out to be a cozy space allowing the occupants to relax in cool privacy and gazing down at the Arabian streets without actually being seen.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
A TIMELESS ELEMENT- MASHRABIYA
With its multifaceted functions– Mashrabiya is an excellent example of Islamic architecture imbibing all aspects of Islamic lifestyle and culture in such a single beautiful element.
In those times, Mashrabiya’s arrangement, shape, material, color and intricacy was considered to be a display of financial status of the occupants. The whole structure of Mashrabiya enhances the warmth of the building creating confidence and providing bliss to the occupants and inspires creative energy.
As the centuries passed, these ancient windows disappeared in the modern sleek designing. Even architects who copy these components in their modern designing miss the pure essence of the structure as they create the design without the understanding of the implications and qualities these beautiful Mashrabiya holds. Simple designs replaced the original intricacy as shown here-
Modern Architects or Designers must come forward to learn and appreciate these ancient components and make an effort to integrate them effectively into the architectural plans of present-day structures.
MASHRABIYA AS INSPIRATION-
Like here in the residential buildings in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute which are inspired from ancient Mashrabiyas controlling interior heat and adds to the aesthetics.
Given the elegance, artistry, practicality and multifaceted approach of Mashrabiya, we will undoubtedly continue to explore new ways of including this beautiful element in modern architecture and will able to see interesting variations of this ancient Arabic structure long into the future….
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