Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Lecture Looks at Islamic Gardens

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Lecture Looks at Islamic Gardens

Article excerpt

Dr. Elin Haaga presented a lecture entitled "Paradise in the Garden: the Influence of the Islamic Garden Today" at the World Bank's InfoShop auditorium on Jan. 6. Sponsored by the Mosaic Foundation in cooperation with the World Bank-IMF Arab Club, the lecture was the third in the 2004-05 series, "West Looks East: the Influences of Traditional Arab Design."

Haaga, who holds a master's degree in history from Oxford University, curently is adjunct professor at the George Washington University, where she teaches a course on the history of landscape design.

Although "people have not always thought of gardens as an art form," Haaga noted, their aesthetics have nonetheless been spread across continents. "Unlike a painting which, if grand, will hardly ever be painted over, gardens have often been remade," she said. As a result, Haaga explained, it is hard "to find [out] exactly what ancient gardens were like."

One way to reconstruct ancient Islamic gardens, she told the audience, has been to examine the "vernacular traditional gardening" in an area in which former gardens existed. By determining the "one way that seems normal" of gardening in a particular area, she said, one can extrapolate and reconstruct the "idea of how the world should look" according to the ancient civilizations that produced the gardens.

According to Haaga, Egypt provides a good point of departure for studying the evolution of Islamic gardens. This is because design elements and the particular method of order recur, she said, citing as enduring characteristics enclosure from the outside world; a platform often found with pillars; a water tank or pool in the center of the garden; and fruit-bearing trees. "The idea of an enclosed space with water is obviously very appealing in a hot, dry climate," noted Haaga.

It is Persia, however, that is considered the birthplace of Islamic gardens. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.