Armand Point and Islamic Architecture

Creative Interpretation

Bradford Museums and Galleries has a long tradition of working with regional artists to explore new ideas about the art and objects in Bradford's collections. Artist Karen Hood was commissioned to create a model of a courtyard house in response to the painting An Arab Weaver. She was given the brief to design a model like a doll's house, which would be placed in Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in front of the painting, where it would encourage visitors to explore the layout, space and architecture of this traditional North African home.


Karen Hood has a background in theatre design and brought her skills as a set designer and model-maker to this project. She began by gathering many visual resources including photographs of Islamic architecture, which she had taken on her travels to Spain, India and North Africa. She examined magazines such as the National Geographic for photographs and articles, and undertook research via libraries and the internet to find out how courtyard houses looked from the inside and outside, and how people lived in them. This helped her to understand the painting, where we are given information about only one corner of the courtyard. Her research led her to a floor plan of an actual courtyard house, and she used this as the the starting point for the model. She then designed the house incorporating many of the features discovered. Next, a maquette was made (a small-scale working model) from foam board, with walls and doorways and suggestions of other architectural details. This was decorated with enough detail to explain the effects she wanted, and presented it to the gallery team for comments.

Questions were raised about the weight of the final structure, which would be lifted by small children. Karen went away to modify the design and then handed the maquette over to furniture maker Andrew Lee. Working from Karen's model Andrew constructed the house from plywood, incorporating details such as staircases, working shutters and beautifully shaped archways. It was then over to Karen to decorate the doll's house. She used a mixture of sawdust and glue to create an authentic-looking roughly plastered exterior, and painted the interior rooms in rich colours with paper tile patterns to make some of the larger rooms more elaborate.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Cartwright Hall Art Gallery | 
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