Place, Meaning, and Form in the Architecture and Urban Structure of Eastern Islamic Cities

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This book offers a comprehensive analysis of the unique meaning of Place (“Makan”) in the traditional context of the Eastern Islamic region, focusing mostly on the area defined by Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. The book often replaces the term cities (as referring to oversized bureaucratic apparatus) with such terms as places and dwellings – meaning developed settlements that have retained a strong trace of social coherence and physical unity, which are the true focus. The study examines the way in which making and thinking, object and subject, are inextricably linked in Islamic places and reflect Man’s inner search for truth, and the role that place plays in helping the Muslim stay true to his faith and lead a life of meaning and spirituality. With illustrations.


“Bashir Kazimee and Ayad Rahmani remind us that giving meaning to place remains vital for our societies, wherever they may be. Here, in this book, their involvement is with the built environment in a part of the Islamic world, taking us away from the cool detachment of architectural analysis and intellectualization into a world of physical and spiritual response to culture, climate and materials. The book, in dealing with notions of interiority, focuses on experiential or narrative space….Although the focus of this is what is termed as Eastern Islam – Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan – the ideas raised are pertinent to Islamic societies in general; and indeed to contemporary society worldwide….The book makes us consider both the relevance of tradition and Islam in the production of timeless architecture. Seldom does an architectural treatise give us such insights into place-making and culture.” – Hasan-Uddin Khan, Roger Williams University, School of Architecture, Art and Historic Preservation

“Embellishing the book with wonderful visuals, the co-authors propel a very lucid narrative unfolding elements of Islamic urban pattern, its domains and nodes, theatricality of pure geometry, religious embroideries of urban design, its composition in a cosmic scheme with play of light and shadow on crisp forms and sense of security provided by streets, walls and courtyards where man can live ‘inside’ his domain…Implicit in this lucid and compelling book exists a longing for return to places that once held keys for a happier life. The narrative journeys through Islamic landscapes but never thunders or moralizes….The choice of the three cities – [in] Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan is significant. All are geopolitically eruptive, undergoing transformation of Islamic sensibilities protected for centuries by ruthless clarity under one God. Is it possible to make these troubled spots testing grounds of a new urban pattern conditioned by forces, standards, desires, and dictates of Islam? The book thinks so.” – Dr. Anupam Banerji, School of Architecture and Planning, University of Waterloo

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Introduction: A Case for Place
1. Place and Orientation: Wall and Orientation; Direction and Orientation; Distance and Orientation
2. Place and Unity: Cosmic Scheme; Light and Color; Geometry and Form; Numbers; Symmetry
3. Inside with Place: Truth as Inside; Courtyard and the Family; Courtyard as Micrcosm; Liminal Space; The Center; The Aiwan; Shadow; Death and Resurrection; Mortality and Freedom
4. The Street - A Spiritual Journey: Fate and the Street; Street and the Process of Purification; Street Typologies
5. Diurnal Rotation – The Living Tradition: The Qawwal; Diurnal Rotation; The Qala; Village in Kandahar; House in Herat; Local Mosque in Herat; The Four Aiwan Court; Time, Tradition and Memory; Rotation and Time; The Cause of History; Rotation and Memory; Western Islam – Arabic Space
6. The Role of Vernacular in Making of Islamic Places: Tales of Nature and Culture; Effect of Aesthetic; Gift of Sharing; Labor of Community; Music of Confluence; Ruins and Perfection
Bibliography; Index

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