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.
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.
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.
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.
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.