Early Islamic Architecture of the Desert: A Bedouin Station in Eastern Jordan

Early Islamic Architecture of the Desert: A Bedouin Station in Eastern Jordan

Early Islamic Architecture of the Desert: A Bedouin Station in Eastern Jordan

Early Islamic Architecture of the Desert: A Bedouin Station in Eastern Jordan

Excerpt

Architecture is not totally restricted to building; nor, for that matter, is it the exclusive creation of architects. Any conscious selection of a place, space, or environment for a specific purpose can be regarded as architecture, and in this abstract view probably lies the root of most theoretical debate. Nature and antiquity were considered to be the perfect models for ideal buildings in France of the early eighteenth century. Marc- Antoine Laugier proposed that the origin of the classical Greek temple lay in the primitive hut which he described as made of living trees and branches: nature and art, therefore, ultimately combined perfectly in the Parthenon of the fifth century BC.

However unhelpful such theorizing may seem to be, it reflects an obvious truth: that the natural world, without man's help, contains compelling models for the architect. Combined with conscious choice, these natural paradigms can, and in many cases did, become the core of architecture. It is not difficult to see a natural hillside, perhaps next to a spring or rivulet, in Greek, Roman and modern day theatres; the basic functional symbolism required to make a 'mosque' is a geographical direction. Out of both of these natural foundations grew some of the world's great architectural achievements. The structures at ar-Risha, and all that lies behind them, stand close to the humbler, natural end of this development, whose physical 'architectonic' expression was in the beginning no more than a place. Its selection may have been a function of necessary communication, of the need also for diplomacy among steppic tribes and between the tribes and the current central governments (states); the selected place being within nomad territory. The state had to come to the bedouin; hence, 'architecture of diplomacy' as a way of describing social, economic and political components whose architectural expression can be seen in more monumental buildings such as the 'desert castles' (quṣūr) of the early Islamic period, whose satisfactory interpretation has evaded many scholars, and perhaps also the 'camp cities' (amṣār) of the Conquest which formed a basis for the concept of the ideal Islamic city. The antithesis of this 'architecture of diplomacy' is military -- the end of diplomacy -- including the construction of 'Nomad-Walls', a static defence, as early as the third millennium BC. Its later forms include the Roman limes, the Great Wall . . .

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