Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #6 – Iwans

Imagining Islamic Aesthetics for this week will focus on the Islamic architecture of Iwans. Most prominent in Central Asian architectures, secular or religious, it is defined as a vaulted space or hall, three walls are closed while one is left open. In a sense, it is a grandeur version of a gate – ornamental gate, an entry to a mosque, palaces or even individual dwellings.

It is actually a fundamental element in Sassanid (hence, the frequency in the Central Asia) architecture, it has been assimilated into Islamic or Arabic buildings.

Now we will see this architectural element as it is seen throughout the Islamic world. This feature is as noted before, mostly used in the Central Asia region, but as Islam spreads to other places, so did the artistic aesthetics and architectural ideals. A more detail study regarding this architectural feature will be posted later.

author - elishka

The Jame mosque of Isfahan , Iran. This is one of the mosque’s Iwans – there are three others. Observe the flamboyant decoration and tileworks, added with the dual minarets flanking it. This is the most recognizable Iwan, along with the two rest of Jame mosque.

Author - Sven Dirks, Wien

This is the Iwan of Friday Mosque in Herat, Afghanistan. Note that there is no mini-minarets flanking it – as per usual with other kind of Iwans, but the decoration is just as extravagant as the rest. The Calligraphy decorating the perimeters have two kinds of calligraphy ; one in white and one in orange.

Stork nests on unidentified religious building, probably in Bukhara. Early color photograph from Russia, created by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii as part of his work to document the Russian Empire from 1904 to 1916. This particular one taken in 1911. You can see the Iwan is in a poor state – tiles falling off and the decoration is lost revealing the brickwork underneath.

Author - Zohair HarbUser:زهير حرب

Iwan of the King Saud Mosque in Saudi Arabia. this is a modern interpretation of the Iwan, and a more simpler style than its Central Asian counter part. Furthermore, the Iwan itself in in a closed space rather than out to a courtyard.  The same style is used at the Saladin Citadel in Cairo, Egypt. However I cannot find any picture showing the Iwan.

Author - Varun Shiv Kapur

Central iwan of Qila-i-Kuhna mosque, Purana Qila, India. This Iwan is slightly less flamboyantly decorated than its Iranian or Iraqi, however in place of the tiles used in Central Asia, Decoration were done in Red sandstone along with white marble and carvings.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #6 – Iwans

  1. hanen b

    est ce que vous pouvez m’envoyer + de détail sur les iwans svp pour ma these du magister je suis a votre disposition si vous avez des questions sur l’architecture islamique je vous informe que je travail aussi sur les mihrab et la typologie en général … merci

    • I don’t speak any French, sorry. But if you need any help or you want to further discuss the topic of Iwans, you can email me in English and I will try my best to help you. Thank you!

  2. hanen b

    good evening a will try to speek in english , so i just want to have more information if you can on iwans in arab countries because i am ^preparing a master about those kind of things specially on mosquees islamic architecture ,by the way i am really glad to speek with you and i am ready for helping you if that seams interesting for you please excuse my english …. i wish you a goud nigt / hanen

    • I sorry for my inability to understand french. I am glad to be of some help to your masters preparation, even though my blog is unprofessional. The posts I wrote is based on my observations, so it would be appreciated if you point out my mistakes. We can always discuss the topics on Islamic Architecture. I am glad to speak to you as well.

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