Armand Point and Islamic Architecture

Designed for Privacy   

The division between public and private worlds is very important to the design of traditional courtyard houses. This architecture has been called 'the architecture of the veil', where the plain exterior of the house excludes the outside world and protects the private life of the family.

Exterior walls lining a street are usually left bare and windowless. If a window is necessary, it is placed high above street level, making it impossible to peer in. Usually there is only one doorway to the house. Doors opening onto the street rarely face the doorway of a neighbour, and you would enter via an angled passageway which prevents any direct views into the house. Traditionally rooms for men and women are kept separate, and reception rooms for guests would be located near the entrance so that visitors did not enter the inner parts of the house. Courtyard houses grew to accommodate the family; new rooms could be added as needed, and if the available ground space was used up, the house may be extended vertically.

The outwardly plain house shelters an often richly decorated courtyard which provides a private focus for family life. This physical fact parallels the emphasis in the Koran on the richness of the inner self compared to the more modest outward appearance.

Google map: see where the top right photograph was taken, at Alhambra in Spain»

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