ANCIENT BAY – WINDOWS FROM ARAB
MASHRABIYAS are an integral part of Arab lifestyle since ages and an element of sustainable architecture ornamented with beautiful latticework and occasionally with stained glass. It is typically a type of Bay window just like Indian Jharokhas, masking the upper floors of a traditional Arabic building or an Arabic house.
We have gone through MASHRABIYAS elaborately in our previous post – “MASHRABIYAS”- FROM THE STREETS OF ARAB . Here we will stick our post to the important role of that Mashrabiya played and still plays as an element of architecture.
Mashrabiyas are not just a window but a multifaceted architectural element. Top 10 features of Musrabiyas include :
In Arabic and Muslim culture, privacy or pardah had always been an essential part of culture especially for women. This is somewhat like Mughal Jharokhas which served the same purpose. Mashrabiya window screened with jalis helped the residents to have a good view of the street without being seen. Not just women but for all the members of the house, this bay window resolved the privacy concern in the crowded Arabian markets.
2. WATER STORAGE
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 a longer period of time in warm climate of Arab.
Usually qulla, a pottery water jar was placed in mashrabiya for passive cooling.
3. HEAT BUSTER
Mashrabiyas provided with 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.
Mashrabiya became a popular source of ventilation in dense urban areas of Arab because of their presence on upper stories. It helps in allowing the proper flow of cool desert winds inside the house, keeping it cool. Being present on upper stories creates zero hindrance in traffic in the busy streets of Arab.
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. This eventually leads to less electricity consumption.
6. SHADE (CONTROLLING LIGHT)
Mashrabiyas effectively solve the problem of excessive sunlight inside the house. It provides protection and shade for the ground floor windows that are flat and usually unprotected. Thus maintaining the overall temperature of the building.
7. HUMIDITY CONTROL
The air passing through the lattice of wooden Mashrabiya loses some of its humidity by the absorption property of the wood. During the day, when the Mashrabiya is heated by sunlight, this humidity is absorbed by the air which flows through the porous wooden Mashrabiya.
This technique is efficient in making dry air more moist in the heat of the day, humidifying and cooling it at a time when most needed.
8. 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.
9. AN 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.
10. 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.