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Architecture History

A Visit To A Historical Place/Building (Eyüp Sultan Mosque, Turkey)

The Eyüp Sultan Mosque (Turkish: Eyüp Sultan Camii) is a very unique and holy mosque for the Islamic world; it is located in the district of Eyüp on Istanbul’s European side, near the Golden Horn, and outside the walls of Constantinople. The current structure dates from the early 19th century. It was the first mosque built by the Ottoman Turks after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, and it was completed in 1458. The mausoleum marks the location where Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (Ebu Eyüp el-Ensari), the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s standard-bearer and companion, is said to have been buried. Sultan Mehmet II intended to construct a grand tomb to mark the site of Eyüp’s grave, which was discovered outside the city walls shortly after the Conquest. The Ottoman princes came to the mosque complex he commissioned for the Turkish equivalent of a coronation ceremony: the girding of the Sword of Osman to indicate their authority and title as padişah (king of kings) or sultan. The Eyup Sultan Mosque’s decorated dome, which measures 17.5m in diameter and is supported by two half domes, has an elegant architecture. Eyüp’s tomb is possibly more interesting than the mosque itself. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and it’s covered in tile panels from various ages, creating a lovely, if overwhelming, effect. By the end of the 18th century, the mosque had fallen into disrepair, possibly as a result of earthquake damage, and Sultan Selim III ordered the entire building, except the minarets, to be demolished and rebuilt in 1798. In the year 1800, this project was completed. Mahmud II reconstructed the eastern minaret in the original style in 1822.

A fun leafy area to walk through is the Eyüp Cemetery, which leads up the hill from the mosque. The Ottoman princes came to the mosque complex he commissioned for the Turkish equivalent of a coronation ceremony: the girding of the Sword of Osman to indicate their authority and title as padişah (king of kings) or sultan. Eyüp Sultan is thought to have died in the 670s during the first Arab siege of Constantinople. Muslims hold his tomb in high regard. The mausoleum is located on the north side of a courtyard, directly across from the mosque’s main prayer hall entrance. Thousands of Muslims flock to the mausoleum on Fridays, which are holy days in Islam. Around the mosque and mausoleum, old trees, flocks of pigeons, praying believers, and visiting crowds create a magical and colorful atmosphere. Tiles from various periods cover the walls of the mausoleum in the courtyard. Turkey’s oldest and most sacred mosque is the Eyüp Sultan Mosque. Its style was altered several times by the Ottomans, who designed it in accordance with their own style of architecture at the time. Mimar Sinan, a well-known Ottoman architect, designed the Eyüp Sultan Mosque. Mimar Sinan was the son of either Greek or Armenian Christian parents. According to historical accounts, this district was also a holy site in Byzantine times, where people came to visit a saint’s grave and pray for rain during droughts. A variety of contrasting panels of Iznik tiles can be found on the mausoleum’s wall facing the mosque. They are from various times and were brought together during the mosque’s restoration in 1798-1799. Iznik tiles are also used to cover the walls of the mausoleum’s vestibule. They date from about 1580 and have the distinctive sealing-wax red slip. Similar tiles to those found in the vestibule can be found in a number of museums outside of Turkey; they likely once adorned the walls of the baths’ now-demolished entrance hall (camekân). The baroque mosque replaces the original, which was demolished in the 1766 earthquake, but the main draw is the türbe, a holy burial site that attracts crowds of pilgrims waiting in line to see the contents of the solid silver sarcophagus or to meditate in prayer. A panel of three blue and turquoise Iznik tiles, dated from about 1550, is housed in the British Museum and is identical to some of the ones that now adorn the shrine’s exterior wall.

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Architecture History

A Visit To A Historical Place/Building (Kalenderhane Mosque, Turkey)

Kalenderhane Mosque (Turkish: Kalenderhane Camii), like Hagia Sophia, Zeyrek Mosque (Pantokrator Monastery), and Fethiye Mosque, is a Byzantine church in Istanbul, Turkey, that was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. (Pammakaristos Church). The church was most likely dedicated to the Theotokos Kyriotissa at the time of its building. The structure is also known as Kalender Haneh Jamissi and St. Mary Diaconissa. Despite the discrepancy between the Kalenderhane Mosque and the Monastery of Mary Kyriotissa as described in Byzantine sources, scholars have identified the building as the Church of the Monastery of Mary Kyriotissa based on two frescoes of Mary with the inscription Kyriotissa. Their conclusion also differs from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Istanbul’s previous identification of the structure as the Church of the Monastery of Christ Akataleptos. This structure is one of only a few surviving Byzantine churches with a domed Greek cross plan. The Church of Theotokos Kyriotissa was built in the twelfth century during the Komnenian Dynasty on top of a fifth or sixth-century Roman bath complex and served as a Greek Orthodox Byzantine church until 1453. Following Constantinople’s conquest in 1453, the church was given to the Kalenderi Dervishes, who used it as a zaviye (Islamic religious school) and imaret (soup kitchen). Despite the fact that the structure has been restored several times due to fires in the late nineteenth century, it continues to function as a mosque. The Greek Cross plan of the Kalenderhane Mosque is supported by a dome within sixteen ribs. The structure’s medium is typical middle Byzantine architecture, which is a combination of brick and stone masonry layers.

Central dome of Kalenderhane Mosque

The mosque is situated at the western end of the existing section of the Aqueduct of Valens (Bozdogan Kemeri), with the aqueduct offset slightly to the south. The current church was built during the late Comnenian Dynasty (1081-1185), incorporating remains of earlier structures built on the site, including a 4th or 5th century private bath, two basilicas predating the iconoclastic era (717-867), and an unfinished 8th century church, according to Kuban and Striker’s field research. The original marble decoration of the structure is still surviving similar as Hagia Sophia and Chora Museum. The church was used as a Roman Catholic Church by the Catholic Crusaders after the Latin Conquest of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusader in 1204, and they adorned the southern chapel of the church with frescoes depicting the life of St. Francis. The only wall mosaic panel from pre-Iconoclast Constantinople is a mosaic panel depicting “the Presentation of Christ,” which was discovered on the apsidal wall of one of the basilicas. The church was used by Catholics during the Latin invasion, according to frescoes found in a diaconicon chapel portraying the life of St. Francesco, the oldest surviving depictions of the saint. Before the Ottoman conquest, the church was surrounded by monastery buildings, none of which survived the Ottoman era. Hacı Beşir Ağa (d. 1747), the Kizlar Ağası of the Topkap Palace, completed the conversion of the building into a mosque in 1746 by constructing a mihrab, minbar, and mahfil. The mosque was reconstructed after being destroyed by fire and earthquakes in 1855 and again between 1880 and 1890. After the minaret collapsed due to lightning and the Medrese was destroyed in the 1930s, it was abandoned. The above-mentioned renovation by Kuban and Striker has restored the original features of the Comnenian church, the 18th-century mihrab, and the minaret, enabling the monument to continue to be used as a mosque.

Interior view of Kalenderhane Mosque

The structure features a central Greek Cross plan with deep barrel vaults over the arms and a 16-ribbed dome. With alternating layers of brick and stone masonry, the building has a typical middle Byzantine brickwork. On the west side, there is an esonarthex and an exonarthex (added much later). Following the Latin attack, the side entrances from the inner narthex were blocked. The upper gallery to the inner narthex was probably demolished during the 1854 restoration, and windows were opened on the northern façade within the grand arch that had been blocked by the gallery. The sanctuary is on the east side, but the restored mihrab and minbar are in a corner to achieve proper Mecca alignment. Prothesis and diakonikon, two small chapels typical of Byzantine churches from the middle and late ages, have survived. The north and south aisles flanking the nave were both demolished at this time, and neither was restored during the 1966 restoration; the triple arches that once linked the nave to the aisles now form the lower tier of windows on the north and south façades. The church’s interior decoration, which includes exquisite colored marble panels and moldings, as well as elaborated icon frames, is mostly intact. The mosque of Kalenderhane is one of the most significant architectural examples of a domed Greek cross church from the Byzantine middle period, alongside the Gül Mosque in Istanbul, the Church of Hagia Sophia in Thessaloniki, and the Church of the Dormition in (Koimesis) in Iznik (Nicaea). The non-extant iconostasis, which rose to the level of the vaults, is commemorated in two intricate icon frames on the piers flanking the sanctuary. The church’s original decoration, which consists of polychrome marble revetments and moldings, has been preserved to a large degree. The minaret rises from the southwest corner of the church and was also restored during the 1966 renovation. The structure has two distinct characteristics, both of which are unique in Istanbul: a one-meter-square mosaic representing the “Presentation of Christ,” the city’s only pre-iconoclastic exemplar of a religious theme, and a cycle of thirteenth-century frescoes depicting the life of Saint Francis of Assisi (found in a chapel at the southeast corner of the building and painted during the Latin domination). These have been partly restored and are now on display in Istanbul’s Archaeological Museum. Other discoveries from the 1966 expedition are on display in a small museum in the Kalenderhane Mosque’s diaconicon.

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Architecture History

Fasil Ghebbi, Ethiopia

The Fasil Ghebbi (Amharic: ፋሲል ግቢ) is situated in the Amhara National Regional State of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, in the North Gondar Administrative District. It is a fortress that was built by Emperor Fasilides in the 17th century and served as the residence of Ethiopian emperors. There are eight sections to the serial property. The Castle of Emperor Fasilidas, the Castle of Emperor Iyasu, the Library of Tzadich Yohannes; the Chancellery of Tzadich Yohannes; the Castle of Emperor David, the Palace of Mentuab, and Banqueting Hall of the Emperor Bekaffa are all situated inside the Fasil Ghebbi palace complex. The distinctive architecture represents a wide variety of influences, including Nubian styles.

The remaining seven components are located in and around the city of Gondar: the Debre Berhan Selassie (Monastery and church); the Bath of Fasilidas; Kiddush Yohannes; Qusquam (Monastery and Church); Thermal Area; the Sosinios (also known as Maryam Ghemb); the Gorgora (Monastery and Church) and the Palace of Guzara. In 1979, the site was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Amharic word ghebbi means “compound” or “enclosure.” It was designed by Emperor Fasiladas, who became unhappy with his predecessors’ migratory semi-nomadic lifestyle and decided to make a statement by constructing a grandiose palace complex that was one of the most majestic structures of the period.

Interior view of Fasilides’ Palace

Ethiopian rulers often relocated their royal camps between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries. In 1636, King Fasil (Fasilidas) settled in Gondar and made it his permanent capital. The royal court had grown from a camp into a fortified compound called Fasil Ghebbi, which consisted of six main building complexes and other ancillary buildings, surrounded by a 900-meter-long wall with twelve entrances and three bridges until its decline in the late eighteenth century.

The Fasil Ghebbi has its origins in the Ethiopian emperors’ old custom of moving around their territories, living off the produce of the peasants and sleeping in tents. This precinct was sometimes referred to as a katama (“camp” or “fortified settlement”) or makkababya, the name given to the imperial camp in the Royal Chronicle of Baeda Maryam, reflecting this relation.

The Royal Enclosure, which is enclosed by a 900-meter wall, includes a collection of churches, palaces, and monasteries, each with its own architectural style. Many of the early designs are strongly inspired by Hindu and Arabic architecture, with subsequent occupiers applying their own touches to the pre-existing structures. Later additions display Portuguese, Moorish, and Aksumite influences. Fasil Ghebbi is about 70,000 square meters in size. To the south, Adababay, Gondar’s market place, where imperial proclamations, troops were displayed, and criminals were executed, is now a city park.

Fasil Ghebbi

No one knows why this location was chosen as Ethiopia’s capital, but it was prophesied that an Ethiopian capital would be established at a location beginning with the letter G. The legend spawned a string of towns in the 16th and 17th centuries, including Guzara, Gorgora, and finally Gondar. The fortress city functioned as the center of the Ethiopian government until 1864. Twenty Palaces, royal houses, ornately decorated temples, monasteries, and other unique public and private structures have been transformed by the Baroque style introduced to Gondar by the Jesuit missionaries. Massive towers and looming battlemented walls define the main fortress, which looks like a piece of medieval Europe transplanted to Ethiopia.

Emperor Fasilidas designed Enqualal Gemb, also known as the Egg Castle because of its egg-shaped dome roof, and it is one of the most prominent structures in the compound. The Fasiladas prayer room, which towers above Enqualal Gemb and offers 360-degree views of Gondar, is located above Enqualal Gemb. Dawit’s Hall is situated in the enclosure’s northern portion, near the Bakaffa-built structure and the Asasame Qeddus Mikael church, and is known as the “House of Song.” It was described as a “substantial one-story building with a round tower at the southeast corner,” as well as traces of a smaller round tower at the northeast corner and traces of a square tower at the northwest corner, “the majority of which has collapsed.” “The regular arched windows and doorways offered light and access,” according to the building’s interior, which is a single long corridor.

Dawit’s Hall

The Palace of Iyasu, which was the first to be constructed in the city, is located to the northeast of the complex. The palace was built during the reign of Iysau I (1682-1706), the Gonderine period’s greatest monarch. Iyasu Palace was once decorated with glistening Venetian glassware and decadent gold-plated ivory artwork and is noted for its saddle form and rare vaulted ceilings. A two-story pavilion of a bathing palace associated with Emperor Fasilidas is situated outside the city’s confines to the north-west by the Qaha River. The structure is a two-story battlemented structure that sits inside and on one side of a rectangular pool of water filled by a canal from a nearby river. The bathing pavilion is built on pier arches and has many rooms linked by a stone bridge that can be raised for protection.

Fasil Ghebbi is surrounded by a curtain wall with twelve gates piercing it. The banquet hall and granary are situated to the north of Iysau’s Palace. The building was once decorated in intricate artwork, but during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia, it was sadly plastered over. The last palace on site, Mentewab’s Castle, a two-story castle that now serves as the site office, was designed by Emperor Bakaffa. Following rulers, such as Iyasu the Great, continued to build, improving the techniques and architectural style, and expanding the city to the hills north-west of the city center, in the Qusquam region. Fasil Ghebbi and the other Gondar city ruins show a remarkable interface between internal and external cultures, with cultural elements linked to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Ethiopian Jews, and Ethiopian Muslims.

Fasil Ghebbi is open Monday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 17:30 p.m. It is possible to visit the Royal Enclosure in the morning or afternoon. It is often included as part of a larger city tour of Gondar, but it is the city’s main attraction. Gondar remained an important commercial and transportation center for northwest Ethiopia throughout the nineteenth century. Some of the monuments also serve a sacred function, and the surrounding landscape retains important cultural significance for the locals.

Information Sources:

  1. brilliant-ethiopia.com
  2. whc.unesco.org
  3. wikipedia
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Architecture History

Çamlıca Mosque, Turkey

The Grand Çamlıca Mosque (Pronounced: Chamlija; Turkish: Büyük Çamlıca Camii), Turkey’s largest and most impressive mosque, is the product of the Turkish government’s desire to show off the country’s economic strength. It is an Islamic worship center that was completed and opened in March of 2019. The most modern complex of its kind in Turkey, with its art gallery, library, conference hall, art studio, and Museum of Islamic Culture set to open later, as well as a peaceful place for worship, Çamlıca Mosque evokes the atmosphere of mosques commissioned by the Ottoman Empire. The mosque cost US$110 million (approximately 550 million Turkish Lira) and was part of the Turkish government’s megaproject program.

The fine details of the amlca Mosque attract interest, but it also has some special features. Bahar Mzrak and Hayriye Gül Totu, two female architects, led the architectural design planning of the amlca Mosque, which began in the year 2000. The mosque’s design was influenced by Ottoman architecture and Mimar Sinan’s works. The mosque has six minarets, which reflect the Islamic faith’s six pillars. Four of these minarets, each with three balconies, stand 107.1 meters tall and are dedicated to the Triumph of Manzikert, while the other two minarets stand 90 meters tall and have two balconies.

The Grand Çamlıca Mosque, Turkey

This new icon, a futuristic structure with interior spaces built to meet different needs, contains not only an area devoted solely to worship and prayer, but also an art gallery, a library, a conference room, an art studio, and the Museum of Islamic Civilisation, which houses artefacts from Turkish Islamic culture. The new Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, officially inaugurated the mosque on May 3rd, 2019. This practice is expressed in the structure’s architecture, which is reminiscent of mosques constructed in the Ottoman and Seljuk architectural styles.

The mosque’s main dome, which stands 72 meters tall, reflects the 72 nations that call Istanbul home, while the mosque’s 34-meter dome represents Istanbul itself. A 3.12-meter-wide and 7.77-meter-high finial weighing 4.5 tons adorns the mosque’s main dome. Hayriye Gül Totu and Bahar Mzrak, two female architects, led the architectural design planning of Grand Amlca Mosque, which began in the year 2000. The mosque was designed by female architects to accommodate 63,000 people, with special consideration for women, including a separate area for women to pray as well as a childcare area.

The largest mosque in Turkey, it was President Erdoan’s pet project and can be seen for miles (including from ferries making their way up the Bosphorus). The combination of Ottoman and Islamic architecture influenced the design of the amlca Mosque. The design was designed with the likelihood of an earthquake in mind. The main building in these mosques has a Greek cross floor plan with a square in front of it. The project’s planners took into account Istanbul’s earthquake requirements, which is why the mosque will accommodate 100,000 people in the event of an earthquake.

Istanbul Big Çamlıca Mosque Main entrance courtyard

The main gate of the Grand Amlca Mosque is 5 meters long, 6.5 meters high, and weights 6 tons, making it one of the world’s largest mosque gates. The exterior design was heavily influenced by architect Mimar Sinan, the chief builder of the Ottoman classical era. The Suleymaniye Mosque, one of Sinan’s inventions, is visible from the mosque, which is situated on Amlca Hill. The mosque, which is visible from all parts of the city, is rich in features that draw tourists’ attention as they approach it from afar: the six imposing minarets that mark the building’s perimeter reflect the Islamic faith’s six pillars.

The main dome of the amlca Mosque stands 72 meters tall and represents the 72 nations served in Istanbul, Turkey, while the dome spanning 34 meters represents Istanbul (34 is the city’s license plate number). The main dome is 3.12 meters in diameter, 7.77 meters in height, and weights 4.5 tons. The Çamlıca Mosque features a 3,500-square-meter art gallery, a 3,000-square-meter library, a 1,071-seat conference hall, eight art studios, and a 3,500-car indoor parking lot. The mosque has been described as “a classic project that uses modern tools” and cutting-edge techniques in its construction, and it is designed to the highest standards, making it “one of the world’s most earthquake-resistant buildings.”

The Grand Çamlıca Mosque General view

Çamlıca Mosque’s interior was built with a more minimalist architectural approach. The two female designers’ aim was to make people feel more spiritual in the room, and they claimed that they used “light, color, glass, ornamentation, and calligraphy” to achieve this. The L&L Luce&Light outdoor lighting systems selected by Lighting Planner Utku Baksir make the Grand Çamlıca Mosque exceptional, not just in terms of structural protection but also in terms of aesthetics.

Indicating that the Çamlıca Mosque was built not only as a mosque but also as a modern-day complex and a typical Islamic Ottoman social complex. The main dome, which stands 72 meters tall, reflects the 72 nations that call Istanbul home. The minarets are arranged around the dome, with four on even ends and two on the mosque’s outer ends. Various Siri projectors, with adjusted points and hostile to glare recessed optics, have been utilized to light the trees in the garden to one side of the mosque, offering volume to the green foliage: a moving impact, in ideal beneficial interaction with the environment of the place.

Information Sources:

  1. archello.com
  2. dailysabah.com
  3. wikipedia
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Architecture

Chattel house – a small moveable wooden house

Chattel house is a movable wooden dwelling, usually set on a foundation of loose stones on rented land. It is a Barbadian term for a small moveable wooden house that working-class people would occupy. They were modest wooden buildings set on blocks so that they could be easily moved from one lease holding to another. The houses were constructed to be transportable in the event of landlord and tenant disputes. The term goes back to the plantation days when the homeowners would buy houses designed to move from one property to another. The name chattel referred to the fact that they were movable property.

Chattel house – movable personal property

Chattel is the movable personal property that can be either animate or inanimate property such as hogs, furniture, and automobiles. Chattel houses are set on blocks or a groundsill rather than being anchored into the ground. In addition, they are built entirely out of wood and assembled without nails. Chattel houses are set on blocks or a groundsill rather than being anchored into the ground. This allowed them to be disassembled and moved from place to place. This system was necessary historically because home “owners” typically did not own the land that their house was set on. Instead, their employer often owned the land. In early settlement days, home owners were not necessarily landowners, but part of a tenantry system of the plantations. In case of a landlord tenant dispute, the house could be quickly moved to a new property. Chattel property and other personal property is tracked separately from land or improvements made to land because it can be depreciated more quickly.

It has been customary for people in Barbados to build additions onto their chattel houses. The steep gable roof, constructed of corrugated iron, were adapted to suit the climate of heavy rains and winds. As such, the house may look as though different sections are at slightly different heights or in a different pattern due to each part being constructed at different stages. The angle of the roof deflects the wind rather than providing a platform for it to lift off.

Modern chattel houses tend to have a greater degree of permanence, as they are often connected to the electricity mains, and may either have a permanent septic tank or be connected to a public sewer system. The fretwork around the windows and openings were placed there to provide shade and to act as a filter against the rain. Today, chattel houses are slowly diminishing in number since tastes and building styles have changed, but their use is now being adapted to commercial enterprises.

Information Source:

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Architecture

Tin Tabernacle – a type of prefabricated ecclesiastical building

Tin tabernacle is a temporary church of galvanized iron erected by any denomination. It is also known as an iron church, is a type of prefabricated ecclesiastical building made from corrugated galvanized iron. The very rapid growth in urban population during the Victorian era caused a new wave of church and chapel building. They were developed in the mid-19th century initially in the United Kingdom.

Tin tabernacle is a Church, usually nonconformist, clad in corrugated iron. It is a type of prefabricated ecclesiastical building made from corrugated galvanized iron.

Tabernacle is a moveable dwelling – a temporary church erected before permanent buildings can be provided. Corrugated iron was first used for roofing in London in 1829 by civil engineer Henry Robinson Palmer, and the patent was later sold to Richard Walker who advertised “portable buildings for export” in 1832. The most common type was timber-framed, externally clad with galvanized corrugated iron (CI), and lined with high-quality tongue-and-groove boarding. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, many churches were designed and made in kit form to be bought from catalogs.

The Industrial Revolution had brought an increasing demand for large industrial buildings. Many of these simple ‘tabernacles’ had high levels of decoration: outside, timberwork was often richly carved; inside, panelling and other surfaces were usually enriched with delicate stencilling. In response to overwhelming pressures to provide cheap, rapidly erectable buildings that could be sited far from developed sources of traditional materials, it is no surprise that CI buildings started to be mass-produced by engineers and builders. These were excellent buildings which proved surprisingly durable. Traditional roofing materials, such as tiles and slates, were not suitable for large spans, particularly where the roof pitch was shallow, because of the excessive weight load.

The technology for producing the corrugated sheets improved, and to prevent corrosion, the sheets were galvanised with a coating of zinc, a process developed by Stanislas Sorel in Paris in the 1830s. Tin churches may meet few of the rules of ‘great architecture’, but they tell us as directly as any others about the aspirations, fashions and economic privations of ordinary people. After 1850, many types of prefabricated buildings were produced, including churches, chapels and mission halls.

Information Source:

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Architecture History

Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia

In the historic walled district of Medina, between Rue de la Kasbah and Rue el Farabi, the Great Mosque of Kairouan (Arabic: جامع القيروان الأكبر‎), also known as the Mosque of Uqba (جامع عقبة بن نافع), is located. It is a mosque located in Kairouan, Tunisia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of North Africa’s most impressive and largest Islamic monuments. The original mosque was totally demolished, and in the 9th century, much of what stands today was constructed by the Aghlabids. Founded in the year 50 AH (670AD/CE) by the Arab general Uqba ibn Nafi at the founding of the city of Kairouan, the mosque occupies an area of more than 9,000 square meters (97,000 sq ft). It is one of the oldest places of worship in the Islamic world, and a model in the Maghreb for all subsequent mosques. A hypostyle prayer hall, a marble-paved courtyard, and a square minaret are part of its perimeter, approximately 405 meters (1,329 ft).

View of Great Mosque of Kairouan

The mosque, as it stands today, was constructed between 817 and 838 by the Aghlabid governor of Kairouan, Ziyadat Allah. The building was erected on the site of an older mosque, originally founded at the time of the 670 AD Arab conquest of Byzantine North Africa by Uqba ibn Nafi. About 690, shortly after its completion, the mosque was demolished by the Berbers, originally led by Kusaila, during the occupation of Kairouan. The Mosque of Uqba, in addition to its theological prestige, is one of the masterpieces of Islamic architecture, notable for the first Islamic use of the horseshoe arch, among other items. The minaret is the oldest in the Maghreb, and there are 414 pillars supporting horseshoe arches in its impressive prayer hall; non-Muslims can peer into it from the inner courtyard, but can’t enter.

The popularity of the Uqba Mosque and the other holy sites in Kairouan has helped the city to develop and expand. The mosque is situated in the intramural district of Houmat al-Jami, north-east of the medina of Kairouan (literally “area of the Great Mosque”). Although the current mosque retains virtually no trace of the original seventh century building, it is still generally referred to as “Mosque of Sidi Uqba”, or, “Mosque of Uqba Ibn Nafi.” Historically, great importance has been given to it as the first mosque in the first city of Islam in the West. In 703, the Ghassanid General Hasan ibn al-Nu’man rebuilt the mosque. Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, Umayyad Caliph in Damascus, commissioned his governor Bishr ibn Safwan to carry out construction work in the region, including the renovation and expansion of the mosque around the years 724-728 AD, with the gradual increase of the population of Kairouan and the consequent increase in the number of faithful.

The building is a massive quadrilateral that is slightly irregular, covering some 9,000 m2. It is longer on the east side (127.60 meters) than on the west side (125.20 meters), and shorter on the north side (72.70 meters) than on the south side (78 metres). The principal minaret is north-centered. The exterior has a traditionally unadorned Aghlabid style, with its buttressed walls. When you walk into the vast, marble-paved courtyard, enclosed by an arched colonnade, impressions shift. The courtyard was built to capture water, and the paving slopes to an intricately decorated central drainage hole that delivers the rainwater collected to the cisterns below in the 9th century. The decorations have been crafted to filter the water’s dust. Both of the two wells’ marble rims have deep rope-grooves worn by millennia of water drawing up from the depths.

A number of important additions, including the inclusion of a nearby wide courtyard and the building of a pool now known as the Old Cistern, were made between 703 and 816. (Al-Majal al-Qadim). This time is most frequently attributed to the building of the minaret, although some scholars consider it to be part of the later work of Ziyadat Allah. The next major reconstruction came in 836, when Ziyadat Allah completely rebuilt the sanctuary, including the dome above the mihrab. From the outside, with its 1.90 meters thick massive ocher walls, the Great Mosque of Kairouan is a fortress-like structure, a composite of well-worked stones with intervening rubble stone courses and baked bricks. In 856, by adding a double-arcaded portico to the sanctuary with a domed entry bay, Abu Ibrahim Ahmed started the work that would bring the mosque to its twentieth-century configuration. The portico enveloping the interior of the courtyard is also often assigned to this period; however, some texts cite Ibrahim Ibn Ahmad (874-902) as its builder.

Overview of the building (center), southern façade to the outside (left) and Minaret seen from the courtyard (right)

The three-tiered minaret in the square occupies the northwestern end of the courtyard. In AD 728, the lowest level was built. Note the two Roman slabs at its base (one upside down) bearing Latin inscriptions. On either side, the corner towers measuring 4.25 metres are supported by strong projecting supports. Structurally, the buttressed towers provided stability to the entire mosque given the soft grounds prone to compaction. At the southern end of the courtyard is the prayer hall. The massive, studded wooden doors here date from 1829; especially fine are the carved panels above them. The pillars were, like those of the colonnade, originally Roman or Byzantine, salvaged from Carthage and Hadrumètum (Sousse), and no two are the same.

The complex measures about 70 by 125 meters and is oriented northwest-southeast, being slightly irregular in shape. In 836, the mosque was rebuilt again by Emir Ziyadat Allah I: this is when the structure acquired its present appearance, at least in its entirety. At the same time, the mihrab’s ribbed dome was raised on squinches. The present state of the mosque can be traced back to the Aghlabid era, except for some partial restorations and a few later additions made in 1025 during the Zirid period, 1248 and 1293-1294 under the reign of the Hafsids, 1618 at the time of the Muradid beys, and in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, no feature is older than the ninth century except the mihrab.

Interior view of the hypostyle prayer hall in the Mosque of Uqba
(The Great Mosque of Kairouan)

Six portals, facing northeast and southwest, join the courtyard. The prayer hall, as well as two sheltered doorways from the foot, is entered from the courtyard. At the far end of the main prayer hall, between two red marble columns, you can just make out the precious 9th-century tiles behind the mihrab (niche showing the path of Mecca). For the richly decorated minbar (pulpit) next to them, the tiles were imported from Baghdad along with the wood. The ribbed dome in front of the mihrab has epigraphic and floral decoration and is widely known as a masterpiece of the Aghlabid. With the exception of two domes, one above the mihrab (dating from 836) and one above the portico’s entrance bay, the roof is level (reconstructed in the nineteenth century after its 856 form). The two-bay-deep arcade flanking the courtyard is a later addition, and consists of horseshoe arches resting on rectangular pillars fronted by twin columns.

The Great Mosque of Kairouan has been the subject of numerous accounts by Arab historians and geographers in the Middle Ages for many centuries after its establishment. The stories primarily concern the various phases of the sanctuary’s building and expansion and the successive contributions of several princes to the interior decoration (mihrab, minbar, ceilings, etc.). Abu Ibrahim Ahmed designed the present mihrab, based on the qibla wall. Some scholars claim that Uqba Ibn Nafi’s original mihrab can be seen through the open-work marble of today’s mihrab. Set in a horseshoe-shaped niche, it is surmounted by a semi-dome of curved wooden planks attached to a supporting structure. A gold pigment against the dark backdrop of the wooden half dome is painted in intricate floral designs. In four horizontal rows, twenty-eight white marble panels line the polyhedral interior of the niche of the mihrab. Some of the Western travelers, poets and authors who visited Kairouan sometimes leave their experiences and testimonies tinged with emotion or appreciation in the mosque. On one side, the wooden framework of the maqsura is fixed to the qibla wall and is connected to the arcade pillars with thin iron bands at the inner corners. A door (Bab al-Imam) on the qibla wall and a pair of double doors opening to the sanctuary are accessed via it. Today, the enclosure of Kairouan’s Great Mosque is pierced by nine gates (six openings to the courtyard, two openings to the prayer hall and a ninth opening to the maqsura hall), some of which, such as Bab Al-Ma (water gate) located on the western façade, are followed by prominent porches flanked by buttresses and surmounted by square tholobate-based ribbed domes carrying squinches with three vaults.

Information Sources:

  1. archnet.org
  2. lonelyplanet.com
  3. wikipedia
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Architecture

Dyson sphere – a hypothetical megastructure

A Dyson sphere is a theoretical mega-engineering project that encircles a star with platforms orbiting in tight formation. It is a hypothetical megastructure that completely encompasses a star and captures a large percentage of its power output. It is the ultimate solution for living space and energy production, providing its creators ample surface area for habitation and the ability to capture every bit of solar radiation emanating from their central star.

According to British-American theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson, who first speculated about these putative structures in 1960, an intelligent alien species might consider the undertaking after settling on some moons and planets in their local stellar neighborhood. The concept is a thought experiment that attempts to explain how a spacefaring civilization would meet its energy requirements once those requirements exceed what can be generated from the home planet’s resources alone. As their population increased, these extraterrestrials would start to consume ever-greater amounts of energy.

Only a tiny fraction of a star’s energy emissions reach the surface of any orbiting planet. Building structures encircling a star would enable a civilization to harvest far more energy. The first contemporary description of the structure was by Olaf Stapledon in his science fiction novel Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system”, surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused on escaping solar energy for intelligent use.”

The concept was later popularized by Freeman Dyson in his 1960 paper “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation.” Futurist George Dvorsky has penned an article in which he proposes building a Dyson Sphere around the Sun by basically destroying Mercury and using it for parts.

Dyson proposed that searching for evidence of the existence of such structures might lead to the discovery of advanced civilizations elsewhere in the galaxy. Dyson speculated that such structures would be the logical consequence of the escalating energy needs of a technological civilization and would be a necessity for its long-term survival. In his conjectures, Dyson was not suggesting that all technological societies would enact this outlandish project. He proposed that searching for such structures could lead to the detection of advanced, intelligent extraterrestrial life. Rather, some might have, he reasoned, and therefore, it would be valuable for human astronomers to search for these colossal examples of intelligent minds.

Dyson’s two-page paper in the journal Science was titled Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation because he was imagining a solar-system-sized solar power collection system not as a power source for us earthlings, but as a technology that other advanced civilizations in our galaxy would, inevitably, use. Different types of Dyson spheres and their energy-harvesting ability would correspond to levels of technological advancement on the Kardashev scale.

 

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Architecture

Domed City – a hypothetical structure

A domed city is a hypothetical structure that encloses a large urban area under a single roof. Domed cities were cities that were contained within a bio-dome. In most descriptions, the dome is airtight and pressurized, creating a habitat that can be controlled for air temperature, composition, and quality, typically due to an external atmosphere (or lack thereof) that is inimical to habitation for one or more reasons. Sundari, along with other Mandalorian cities, was a domed city. Many of Rodia’s cities were also domed.

Domes may not be a staple of this new era, but 20th-century inventors like Fuller and Spilhaus would have been happy to know that today’s designers are still working toward a sustainable vision of the future — even if it’s not exactly what they imagined. Domed cities have been a fixture of science fiction and futurology since the early 20th century and may be situated on Earth, a moon, or other planets. Today’s urban planners, meanwhile, are devising intelligent transportation systems by using sensor networks, digital information, and cognitive computing technologies.

Origin

It is not clear exactly when the concept of a domed city first appeared. The dome was not the research station itself, merely a shell to deflect wind and to retain some modest measure of heat. The actual living structures were inside, most of them insulated trailers. The phrase “domed city” had come into use by the 19th century in a different sense, meaning a skyline with dome-topped buildings.

It is still a source of disappointment to me that this future did not materialize, though the Chinese government is looking at domed parks to exclude the ever-worsening air pollution. One catalog of early science fiction mentions the 1881 fantasy Three Hundred Years Hence by British author William Delisle Hay (not to be confused with an earlier novel of the same title, by Mary Griffith). Hay’s book describes a future civilization where most of humanity lives in glass-domed cities beneath the sea, allowing the surface of the earth to be used primarily for agriculture. Several examples from the early 20th century are also listed. Those wishing to enjoy nature without shredding their lungs would pay an entrance fee, then frolic for some number of hours in a lush natural paradise beneath an immense, airtight transparent canopy.

 

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Architecture History

Beni Hammad Fort, Algeria

Beni Hammad Fort, also known as Beni Hammad’s Al Qal’a (Arabic: قلعة بني حماد‎), is an imperial Islamic city, now ruined, founded in central Algeria during the eleventh century CE (fourth century AH). It served as the first capital of the Hammadid dynasty in the 11th century. It is northeast of M’Sila, at an elevation of 1,418 meters (4,652 ft), in the Hodna Mountains and receives ample water from the surrounding mountains. It is one of the Islamic civilization’s most interesting and most correctly dated monumental complexes. Near the town of Maadid (aka Maadhid), about 225 kilometers (140 mi) southeast of Algiers, in the Maghreb, is the Beni Hammad Fort. After their freedom from the Zirids and the Fatimids of Tunisia, the seat of the Hammadids was founded by the founder of the Hammadid dynasty, Hammad bin Buluggin I (reg. 1015-1028 CE / AH 406-419), starting in 1007 CE (AH 397).

The settlement developed rapidly into a flourishing metropolis and cultural center from the base of the original qalat, or fortress. In its fortified settlement in the Maadid mountains, Qalat Beni Hammad attracted commercial caravans, scientists, musicians, theologians, politicians, and poets. It was the first capital of the Emirs of Hammad and had great splendor. In 1980, it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and described as “an authentic picture of a fortified Muslim city”. Within 7 km of partly dismantled defensive walls, the Qal’a contains a significant number of monumental ruins, including the Great Mosque and its minaret, and a number of palaces. The mosque is the largest after that of Mansourah and its minaret is the oldest in Algeria after that of Sidi Boumerouane, with its prayer hall containing 13 ships out of 8 bays. The Qal’a Ruins bear witness to the great sophistication of North Africa’s Hammad civilization, original architecture, and palatial culture.

Beni Hammad Fort

The primary source summary of the resident city of al-Bakri (1014-1094 CE / AH 404-487) and the historical account of Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406 CE / AH 732-808) testify to the military power of the city as well as its economic and intellectual capital. At the end of the eleventh century, just before the Hilalian incursions precipitated the collapse of the town, the town reached the height of its regional importance during the rule of the later Hammadids. Numerous terracotta, gems, coins and ceramics that attest to the high degree of civilization under the Hammadid dynasty have been brought to light by excavations. Several decorative fountains using the lion as a symbol are also among the discovered artifacts. Three independent residences divided by gardens and pavilions form the ruins of the emir’s palace, known as Dal al-Bahr.

Established as a military fortress in 1007, it was raised to the status of a metropolis. It has inspired the development of Arab architecture, including the Maghreb, Andalusia, and Sicily, as well as other civilizing influences. The key artifacts that attest to the richness and influence of this Hammadid culture are the archaeological and monumental vestiges of the Qal’a of Beni Hammad, including the Great Mosque and its minaret, as well as a number of palaces. The palace of Dar al-Bahr was named for its rectangular pool measuring 67 by 47 meters (220 by 154 ft). To launch a ship, a ramp at one end of the pool was used. In the accounts of contemporary tourists, references to nautical displays in this pool appear.

In central northern Algeria, approximately 110 kilometers south of the Mediterranean coast and 190 kilometers southeast of Algiers, Qalat Beni Hammad is situated. The site is adjacent to Sidi Mohammed el Fadhel’s small village, but the nearest town is M’sila, the modern provincial capital, 26 kilometers southwest of the complex, or 70 kilometers by road. The gardens stretched east-to-west through the city beyond the walls of the palace complex and to a depth of nearly 100 meters (330 ft). Archeologists have not visited the gardens yet, but ornamental fountains have been found.

The city became the capital of the Berber Hammadids, and in 1017 it was under siege by the Zirids. It was abandoned in 1090 under the threat of Banu Hilal and partially destroyed in 1152 by the Almohads. The qalat is located near the peak of Takarbust on the Hodna plateau, the summit of which was enclosed by a large ring of fortifications that established the boundaries of the walled city. The average height of the enclosed city is 990 meters above sea level, while, at its highest point, the Takarbust peak rises to 1418 meters above sea level.

At the time of the inscription, the remains of the 7 km of defensive walls and all the monumental remains found therein were the characteristics that characterize the land. The State Party intends to recommend a revision of the property boundaries and to set up a buffer zone to preserve the exceptional atmosphere of the site. The property’s integrity is guaranteed, but the remains are subject to natural deterioration and weathering. The town is defensively placed to allow a clear view of the plain of Hodna 400 meters below and to the south, while the settlement is bordered by mountain slopes to the north, east, and west. The UNESCO-recognized imperial complex occupies approximately 150 hectares.

Many of the smaller and more modest structures have been lost because of a lack of maintenance or inhabitation in the centuries since the foundation of the city, however, there is evidence of some large buildings. Near its longitudinal core, the mosque is situated in the south of the walled city. The mosque is very large, with a rectangular plan measuring east-to-west 56 meters wide and north-to-south 64 meters long. The longitudinal axis of the mosque aligns with the meridian between the north and the south. At the center of the north wall, a minaret is located, while public entrances open into the mosque courtyard on the east and west walls.

Another architecturally important building inside Qalat Beni Hammad is the Qasr al Manar, also known as the “Castle of the Beacon Light”. Qasr al Manar is a large defensive structure at the edge of a cliff overlooking the Hodna plateau to the south, a fortified projection of the eastern wall of the city. The stone masonry structure is approximately cubic in size, measuring 30 meters wide from east to west and 32 meters long from north to south. The fort also includes a wide reception room at its upper level with a domed ceiling, which opens onto a rooftop terrace. Though primarily a military structure, during times of peace, the Qasr al Manar was built to accommodate imperial diplomatic functions.

Scattered fragments of the eleventh-century building and its decorations have survived elsewhere in the complex. Carved marble water channels, parts of frescoes within the palaces, ceramic pottery, marble sculptures, crystal and glassware are among the artworks. Carved stone friezes, carved stone and plaster muqarnas, and multicolored tiles made using multiple artisanal techniques are architectural remnants. In the modern period, the site was identified by the French historian Méquesse in 1886. In 1908 CE, under the supervision of the French archaeologist de Beylié, modern excavations of the site were first carried out. Later excavations were undertaken by Lucien Golvin between 1951 and 1952 CE, and after 1964 CE under Bourouiba. The 150-hectare Qalat Beni Hammad site was named in 1980 as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

 

Information Sources:

  1. archnet.org
  2. whc.unesco.org
  3. wikipedia