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Mashrabiya in Contemporary Architecture

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Mashrabiya is one of the most distinguishing features in Islamic architecture. Not only it makes the interior spaces cool, but also adds texture to the building’s exterior. Today, mashrabiyas play important roles in contemporary Islamic Architecture. It also found a way to international contemporary architecture. Because of its defining and practical feature as a design element, mashrabiya in Contemporary Architecture is a new inspiration to designers who are keen on developing a design that is innovative and sustainable.

Mashrabiya in contemporary architecture
Burj Doha. Photo Credit: mattk1979 Flickr via Compfight cc

The Traditional Mashrabiya

In the first place, no exact records that describe when mashrabiyas originated. But, one thing is for sure, it has been around for a very long time in Arabic architecture. Mashrabiya is a projecting window enclosed with carved wooden latticework. Traditionally, mashrabiyas are the passive cooling element that cools the interior spaces of buildings.

Mashrabiya in Tunisia. Image from wikimedia commons.

Mashrabiya is usually on the street side of the building where it catches the cooling air and directs it into the building. In addition, mashrabiya provides privacy to its inhabitants while they can still see the streets scene outside, like a one-way mirror.

Photo Credit: mohammedeldeeb22 Flickr via Compfight cc
Jeddah Historic Center, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo from wikimedia commons by SammySix

The advancement in air conditioning paved the way for the declining use of mashrabiyas as cooling elements for the buildings. Modernism may also have played a role in its decline as modernist principles try to strip elaborate design elements to give way to its simplistic and functional approach.

Photo Credit: So_P Flickr via Compfight cc

In Contemporary Architecture Scene

Like other ancient design elements, mashrabiya found its way into contemporary architectural designs. The intricate geometric latticework, a feature of Islamic design, is the highlighting feature of the design. Not only it adds a more dynamic feature to the building, but contemporary mashrabiyas also serve its function of cooling and shielding the building from the scorching heat of the sun.

One prominent structure that features mashrabiya in contemporary architecture is the Burj Doha, a tower in Doha, Qatar. Burj Doha is a cylindrical tower that is 238 meters high. Its prominent feature is the metal cladding that reference to mashrabiya screens.

Mashrabiya in contemporary architecture
Photo Credit: mattk1979 Flickr via Compfight cc
Mashrabiya in contemporary architecture
The tower at night. Photo Credit: mattk1979 Flickr via Compfight cc

Another building that features the mashrabiya screen is the Institut Du Monde Arabe in Paris. The building is covered in glass panels. These glass panels have prominent geometric patterns. In each panel are the light-sensitive apertures that adjust depending on the light intensity outside. This in turn regulates that light that enters the building during the hot summer months. Plus, this gives beautiful shadow effects in the building’s interior.

Mashrabiya in contemporary architecture
Arab World Institute. Photo Credit: jphilipg Flickr via Compfight cc
Mashrabiya in contemporary architecture
View from the inside. Photo Credit: mompl Flickr via Compfight cc

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