Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Selections from an Exhibition on Islamic Architecture - I

The Time-less Message of Islamic Architecture – 
An Exhibition exploring its Philosophy, Principles, Symbolism & Methods

This exhibition was designed and produced at Kamil Khan Mumtaz Architects for an International Conference of Islamic Art & Architecture held at National College of Arts, Lahore in November 2008. In the next few posts we would like to share some of these panels. 

Panel 00-Introduction 
Panel 01-Background

Please click on posters below for a larger view

Panel 02 -Background
Panel 03 -Principles of Islamic Art

Please click on posters below for a larger view

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Selections from an Exhibition on Islamic Architecture - II

The Time-less Message of Islamic Architecture – 
An Exhibition exploring its Philosophy, Principles, Symbolism & Methods

This exhibition was designed and produced at Kamil Khan Mumtaz Architects for an International Conference of Islamic Art & Architecture held at National College of Arts, Lahore in November 2008. In the next few posts we would like to share some of these panels. 

Panel 05-Architecture- Symbolism 
Panel 09-Architecture- Methods

Please click on posters for a larger view

Panel 13 -Case Studies (A medieval Family of Architects)
Panel 14 -Case Studies (Master Mason Haji Abdul Aziz)

Please click on posters for a larger view

Saturday, August 7, 2010

More Muqarnas Studies

Left: Study Model for a Minar Muqarnas based on a Minar at Timur's Tomb in Samarqand (1398-1404).
Model by: Zeeshan & Sibtain, 5th year students at BNU's Architecture Dept. interning at KKM architects for the summer.

Minar at Timur's Tomb Samarqand

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Recently finished Frescos at Baba Hassan Din Shrine

Top: Qalib-Kari conrnice based on 17th century Tomb of Dai Anga (inside Gulabi Bagh located next to UET on the G.T. Road). Plaster work by Ustad Jafar; Fresco by Ustad Rafaqat and Calligraphy by Ustad Shaukat Minhas.

Bottom: General view of entrance passage to Baba Hassan Din's tomb (2010).

Friday, July 16, 2010

‘Geometrical’ and ‘Gaz-grid’ Analyses of the Sheesh Mahal (Lahore Fort)

Extract from:

Figs. 15 & 16 show the ‘Geometrical’ and ‘Gaz-grid’ analyses respectively, of the Sheesh Mahal built by Shah Jahan in the Lahore Fort in 1630-31 AD. The Geometrical Analysis (fig 15) shows that all the main divisions of the plan are derived from a series of rotating and inscribed squares. 
In the Gaz-Grid Analysis shown in fig 16 the grid is of 2.5 gaz. The over-all length 62gaz; the width of the court 40gaz; the central Veranda of the Sheesh Mahal 20gaz; the side double storey verandas 10 gaz; the inter-columnar distances for the two verandas 6gaz and 3gaz respectively; Length of the Naulakha Pavilion in the West 10gaz, the round portion of the central pool 13gaz.

Thus once sees that the design of the building utilises two processes simultaneously, namely ‘geometric’ and ‘analytical’.[1]

The design was first drawn more or less theoretically, according to geometric proportions. Then, the analytical process was applied, and one dimension within the design was selected as a module. This module would be equal to, or commensurate with the gaz.[2]

[1] This mirrors the process outlined for Timurid Architecture by Golombek and Wilber, The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan, basing themselves on the definitive Russian work of  Bulatov, M.S, Geometricheskaiia Garmonizatsia v Arkhitekture Ssrednei Azii IX-XV, Moscow, 1978.

[2]Golombek and Wilber, The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan, Op.cit. p 139

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Qalib-Kari (Stucco Plaster-work) & Naqqashi (Fresco Painting on wet lime-plaster)

Qalib-Kari drawing in chalk by Usatd Jafar in an Iwan.

Shafaat and Majid at work on Frescos in a dome assisting their father Master Fresco Painter Rafaqat.

Click for Image of Mosque & Qalib-Qari design on Dome

Glazed-Tiles' Designs

Initial samples for the mosaics 
made by
M. Siddique Kashigar of Nasrpur, 

Hydrabad Distt. Sindh.

Options for a Glazed-tile &
Terracotta Mosaic Panel.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Latest Issue: Journal of Research in Architecture & Planning, NED University, Karachi

In Search of the ‘Time-less’ in Architecture                                                          
by Taimoor Khan Mumtaz
While the use of geometry as surface decoration in Islamic architecture is evident and well documented, an aspect about which not enough is known and understood is the use of geometry in the design of the buildings themselves. This paper will, therefore, endeavour to focus on the use of geometry in the ordering and design of the architecture – plan, elevation, and section. In addition it does so from the point of view of a practising architect attempting to develop ways of employing these methods in contemporary practice, based not only on a  knowledge of their traditional use but also their artistic function – which is to create an architecture which reflects something of the ‘time-less’ quality of all great art.

This paper consists of an Introduction briefly outlining the relevance of the study of traditional architecture and what we can learn from it. Part I gives the theoretical and philosophical background to the design principles[1] of Islamic architecture[2]. Part II offers a theoretical model for looking at traditional architecture in terms of a language with a grammar and a vocabulary in the context of which the principles of design and practical methods of geometry are employed. Part III gives a Historical Overview of the connection between Architecture and Geometry. Part IV consists of a presentation of geometric methods used in Islamic Architecture taking Timurid architecture of Iran and Central Asia as a case-study.  In Part V a Mughal building and a Master-mason’s plan drawing of a mosque are analysed in the light of the methods discussed in the preceding section. In Part VI a contemporary project of a community mosque in Lahore is presented, where some of the methods studied are applied. The Conclusion discusses the extent and challenges of using the theoretical model of traditional architecture – language, grammar, vocabulary, principles and methods – in our own practice.

[1] These design principles find their clearest expression in sacred architecture i.e. of the mosque and the tomb. From   sacred architecture these principles are reflected in Imperial as well as Urban Vernacular architectures.

[2]  The term ‘Islamic Architecture’ stands for an architecture rooted in and expressing the traditional Islamic world view through a vocabulary of forms and principles of design particular to Islamic Architecture as it developed and maintained itself over the centuries till the colonisation of Islamic lands and the resulting influx of Post- Enlightenment philosophies and forms. Cf. Burckhardt , Titus, The Art of Islam- Language and Meaning , London, 1976.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Muqarnas Light

Designed by: Taimoor K. Mumtaz
Model & 3-D by : Syed M. Mehdi (internee, 4th Yr Arch, NCA)  

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ribbed Dome & Muqarnas

Top: 3-D Visualisations by M. Umair Draftsman for Rib construction and Muqarnas being developed by Kamil Sahib for various projects.

Bottom: At site in DefenceForm-work for actual Rib construction, M. Ilyas mastermason from Multan at work on brick ribs.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Seyyed Hossein Nasr

The principle ... which dominates over Islamic art and the philosophy of beauty which governs it, comes directly from the Qur’an and hadith. It is, however, much too subtle to be seen externally. One of the reasons is that you don’t have a book in Islam on the philosophy of beauty or how they did architecture? No body knows how the Badshahi Mosque or the Taj Mahal or Isphahan mosque was built. This tradition was handed over orally from generation to generation through the artistic guilds, those of chivalry, the brotherhood organisations that were ultimately connected to the Tariqa or the esoteric path. What are these principles that have dominated over all forms of Islamic art from its beginning? 
For more:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Extracts from a Poem by Martin Lings

Martin Lings – Collected Poems (1981)
‘through a glass darkly’

The world and we are a watch through the night.
Half open eyes and ears, vigil
Between sleep and wake, not sleep nor wake,
Not pure repose of peace, nor live
Warmth of consciousness that wells like a spring.
Human happinesses are the half-heard strains
Of remote music; of remote splendours
A glimpse and they are gone into the grey darkness,
Forms that loom up in fog, to vanish.
Shadows of shadows of the shadow of His Face;
Echoes of echoes of the echoe of His Word.
The shadows pass, the Substance remains.
Multitudes of tomorrows melt into yesterday
Save One that will dawn as Today without end,
Has already dawned and risen is its Sun
For him who is awake, whose heart is a full moon.
Holy witness of the wealth it reflects.
It beams forth what it sees, bright in our darkness,
For us moonlight, but for the moon daylight
From a Fountain in flood ever-flowing. In that Day
The singer of the Psalms no shadow has for Love;
Jacob rejoices in Joseph forever.

Truth, All-Knowing, Eternal, Lord
Of the Absolute Day beyond day and night,
Infinite Beatitude, answer us, guide us
Over the surge of this sea of shadows, this vast
Ocean of echoes, that on the ultimate shore
We may behold, and hear, and have, and be.
Image: Hishida Shunsō (1874 - 1911)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Modernity & Tradition - An Artist's Perspective


First broadcast June 4, 2010 
"… I think it is also a matter of continuing a Tradition … in a contemporary sense when you speak of Tradition we think of something which is already dead and buried, … literally closed up in a museum. But for me Tradition is something which is alive, and to keep it alive you have to practice it everyday. And art-making is one of [its] aspects … but … you also have to look at your environment, and your situation and your context …."   

Isn’t it illegal to paint on top of dollar bills? Murad Khan Mumtaz seems undaunted. Host Peter Brock speaks with the Pakistani-born artist about his exploration of the tension between tradition and modernity through the alteration of iconic images (e.g. dollar bills). Through the techniques of traditional Persian miniature painting, Mumtaz creates haunting and ominous images with far-reaching implications.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Notes: Islamic Art & Architecture - 4

In the Futuhat, the Shaykh [Ibn al-Arabi] makes an explicit connection between poets and the World of Imagination during a visionary description of the soul's ascent (mi'raj) to the divine presence. Following the hadiths concerning the Prophet's [S.A.W] mi'raj, the Shaykh places a specific prophet in each of the celestial spheres, then discusses the sciences that pertain to each prophet and are acquired by the traveler who reaches the appropriate sphere. The third sphere that of Venus, is inhabited by Joseph, the great dream interpreter. Hence at this level the spiritual traveler acquires knowledge of the World of Imagination and of how to interpret images, and it is from this sphere that poets gain their inspiration:
When the traveler reaches the third heaven, Joseph casts to him the sciences that God had singled out for him, that is, those connected to the forms of imaginalization and imagination ....
.... This is the celestial sphere of complete form-giving and harmonious arrangement (nizam). From this sphere is derived assistance for poets. From it also arrive arrangement, proper fashioning, and geometrical forms within corporeal bodies…. From this sphere is known the meaning of proper fashioning, correct making, the beauty whose existence comprises wisdom, and the beauty that is desired by and is agreeable to a specific human constitution. (Ibn al-Arabi, Futuhatal Makiyyah. II 275.13).
William C. Chittick,  Imaginal Worlds
Ibn al-Arabi and the Problem of Religious Diversity, 2001
Section: Worlds of Imagination.
Chapter: Revelation and Poetic Imagery, pp. 80-81.

Image(Top Left): Miniature depicting man in the bound cosmos, surrounded by the heavens, each corresponding to one of the prophets; the zodiacal signs; the lunar mansions which symbolize the letters of the sacred alphabet;  and finally the angelic realm which is above all space and therefore beyond the visible cosmos and itself the gate to the Divine Presence.

Islamic Science : An Illustrated Study, 1976 

Notes: Islamic Art & Architecture - 3

Inspiration in Traditional Art.

(6071) Abu Huraira [R.A] reported that ‘Umar [R.A] happened to pass by Hassan [Bin Thabit (R.A.)]as he was reciting verses in the mosque. He (Hadrat Umar) looked towards him (meaningfully), where upon he (Hassan) said: I used to recite (verses) when one better than you (the Holy Prophet) had been present (here). He than looked towards Abu Huraira and said to him: I adjure you by Allah (to tell) if you had not heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: (Hassan), give a reply on my behalf; Allah! Help him with Ruh-ul-Qudus. 2787 He (Abu Huraira) said: By Allah, it is so (i.e. the Holy Prophet actually said these words).

2787 Angel Gabriel.

Sahih Muslim, Vol. IV. Kitab Fadail al – Sahabah.

Rendered into English by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi (1981)
Chapter: MXXVI: The Merits of Hassan B. Thabit 2786 (Allah be please with him)
P. 1329

Notes: Islamic Art & Architecture - 2

The Concept of Beauty within which traditional architecture works is based on a sacred understanding of the world and of the human being. This world-view sees both the created macrocosm and the human microcosm in relation to their common Divine Origin.[1] This metaphysical conception and its relationship with art is extremely well developed in the Islamic philosophy of art and aesthetics. An example from a classical source illustrating how the concept of proportion and harmony was understood within this worldview is Imam Ghazali speaking of the relationship...

... that exists between the essence of man’s heart and the transcendent world, which is called the world of spirits (arwah). The transcendent world is the world of loveliness and beauty, and the source of loveliness and beauty is harmony (tanasub). All that is harmonious manifests the beauty of that world, for all loveliness, beauty and harmony that is observable in this world is the result of the loveliness and beauty of that world…. ’ [2]

Another example are the words of a contemporary master mason Ustad Haji Abdul Aziz (1917-2002) discussing the proportioning of different types of domes:

“Everything should be proportionate. The way God has proportioned man, that if a person is tall his limbs and head are proportionate to his height and so on. If they are not we immediately know.... Thus if you decrease the height of the main dome by bringing down its center, you will accordingly have to reduce the proportions of the finial and so on.”[3]

[1] Examples from Islam’s foundational texts expressive of the idea that the cosmos is a reflection God’s Qualities are the Hadith Qudsi: “I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known, so I created the world so as to become known;” and the Quran: “Wheresoever you turn there is the Face of God”. There is also the famous Hadith from Bukhari: “God created Adam in His image”.  
[2] S.H.Nasr, Islamic Art & Spirituality, Golgonooza, Suffolk, 1987, pp 168-169; Chapter: The influence of Sufism on Traditional Persian Music, quoted from Alchemy of Happiness (Kimiya-yi-sa’adat) where Imam Ghazzali is explaining why traditional music can have the effect of transporting the listener to the spiritual world.
[3] Anjuman Mimaran, Newsletter 1, 2002. As part of Anjuman Mimaran’s program to document, learn and publish traditional building methods and techniques used by hereditary Master Craftsman, a series of sixteen colloquiums were conducted by 83 years old master mason Ustad Haji Abdul Aziz from February to June 2000.

Notes: Islamic Art & Architecture - 1

Central Governing Idea or Spirit of Islam: Every traditional civilisation[1] revolves around a central governing idea – which is determined by the manner in which the Divine has revealed itself to that civilization. In Islam this governing principle is the Oneness of God. This is the Doctrine of Unity called Tauheed. This principle of Tauheed is found at the base of all aspects of Islamic civilization. In art also the first principle is that of Unity i.e. art tries to reflect unity just as traditional Islamic science tries to find the underlying unity in nature. [Image:" He God is One ...." (Quran 112). Wazir Khan Mosque, Lahore, 17th C. Photo: G.R.Mughal]

[1] The word Tradition signifies such cultures whose foundations are based on Principles and Truths of Divine Origin, which are then applied over time to various domains from metaphysics and cosmology to art and science. Cf. Nasr, S.H., Foreword to, Bakhtiar, L and Ardalan, N,- The Sense of Unity The Sufi Tradition in Persian Architecture , Chicago 1973, p. xi.