Posted tagged ‘architecture’

July so far

July 22, 2009

A very busy July so far. I am knackered. And not all that time was spent on academic or creative work. Some has been on social events/occasions but some has been preliminary research for my essay. Here’s a break down of what’s been happening:

I attended an open evening (3rd July) at the British Museum for the Birkbeck World Arts and Artefacts depertment in conjunction with the Centre for Anthropology. I went mostly to meet my old Islamic art and architecture (short course) teacher, Roberta Marin, have a chat with her, get tips for my current research and to find out what other courses are on offer for next year.

Roberta advised me to take a look at current auction house catalogues, such as Sothebys and Christies, who do auctions on Islamic Art every now and then. She also mentioned a UAE glossy magazine called ‘Canvas’: http://www.canvasonline.com/ that focuses on modern and contemporary Middle Eastern Art. I’ve had a look at their web site and so far the content looks quite promising. Now I just need to get a hold of some back issues.

At the same open evening was Richard Henry who teaches the short course “The Art of Islamic Pattern I: An Introduction” with Birkbeck. He is also a practitioner of Islamic Art, especially geometric patterns and has applied his skills to different materials such as tiles, sculptures and even woodwork. Examples of his work can be seen here: http://www.richardhenry.info/ A significant thing to note is that Richard was taught by Keith Critchlow who is the author of ‘Order in Space’, ‘Islamic Pattern as a Cosmological Art’, and ‘Time Stands Still’, and is well known to many as a leading expert on sacred architecture and geometry.

I would love to take the classes in Islamic Pattern making but missed this year’s set (which I had been considering but it overlapped with the Calligraphy course I was already taking) and the next lot will not begin until April 2010 which will be a very busy time for me, as I will have to complete the major parts of my project by this time next year.

I came away from the open evening feeling that it was well worth going, firstly for being able to see Roberta again after nearly a whole year, and secondly for having the opportunity to speak to Richard.

The next day I wanted to catch the last day of the Royal Society of Science Summer Exhibition. I took my younger sister (Habibah) as I promised to spend time with her too (she gets bored very easily and likes to go out and about) and she isn’t very merciful when it comes to breaking promises made to her. So we rushed there after my Qur’an class and we made it just in time. We had about half an hour to look around as it was closing at 5pm (a little early if you ask me). We headed straight for the stands that were the brightest, interactive and that had freebies 🙂

There were demonstrations of friction defying chemicals that allowed water to repel off the surface without being absorbed (e.g paper) and there were card tricks illustrating how the human eye can be deceived when seeing shapes in different forms. And then there was the real reason I went – the ‘How Shapes fill space’ stand which was all about symmetrical structures, shapes, penrose tiling (patterns that never repeat even though they look like they might) and hyperdimensions (which I mentioned in one of my very early posts on this blog and I didn’t realise how significant they were at the time).

The ‘How shapes fill space’ exhibitors site can be visited here: http://www.tilings.org.uk/shapes/. The funny thing was that Richard Henry was here too. His explanation on 4th (and consequently higher) dimensions certainly helped me grasp a better understanding of the concept of hyperdimensions. There were a scattering of 3d models that looked like something from a meccano set and also a 3d animated shape that could be moved virtually 360 degrees to see all corners, and sides.

This stand was one of the better ones. There were also small sets of tiles for kids to play with and they were encouraged to try their hand at putting together pieces like a puzzle. Habibah certainly enjoyed it:

How shapes fill space - at the Royal Society of Science Exhibition

How shapes fill space - at the Royal Society of Science Exhibition

Practical examples of penrose tiling

Practical examples of penrose tiling

In our last few minutes, when staff members started booting people politely but firmly out, we managed to get in to the last showing of a 3D movie about the universe expanding. We learnt that seeing into the furthest regions of the universe is like looking back in time because even though light travels soo fast, the distance is so far that we’re seeing stars that have already died. It also discussed the Big Bang Theory (something that is interesting but also seen from a different light for me because of the conflicts with religion – but thats a discussion for another blog). The graphics were very good and we enjoyed this.

The people behind each stand were mostly well informed and were of academic and institutional backgrounds and many well known universities from around London were also present.

We filled in a survey – I had a couple of points to make about the opening hours – and decided to go for a bit of a walk as it was such a lovely day. Right outside was an ice-cream van so we had to indulge. We then took a walk towards the Queen’s guard’s barracks or some such thing near Pall Mall. It was a great view with old traditional English architecture gracing the skyline with the very modern looking London Eye looming behind. Here’s one of the photos I took with my mobile (I like how the gradient came out):

Heart of London - eye et al

Heart of London - eye et al

There have also been a couple of social events such as my very good friend’s hen-do and wedding, and then a family friend’s wedding, and new born babies to visit and re-unions with old family friends, and then last but by far not the least – the private view of the MA Visual Arts Degree Show at Camberwell!

I almost forgot about this amongst all the craziness. Simon kindly reminded me and so I ventured over after work (tired as I was) and was glad I went. Nearly half the people on my bus got off at the same stop as me and looked like they were heading the same way. I rushed off ahead not wanting to get caught behind slower walkers 😉

The presentation of work was great. Having seen the space and the prep needed beforehand made it even more remarkable to see the finished product. Students also made the effort to dress up which gave a professional look to the event as a whole. And we got the chance to mingle with fellow students we hadn’t had the time or the chance to speak to before. I even discovered rooms on the upper floors that I never knew existed!

The work was of a great quality and I was impressed with the outcomes of a lot of the projects – including from students of other pathways such as Graphic Design, Drawing, Book Arts and Illustration.

Here are a few photos I took of the show (on quieter days):

Poster seen on entering basement - with a map of artists space

Poster seen on entering basement - with a map of artists space

Susana Anagua's Ir(reversible Systems)

Susana Anagua's Ir(reversible Systems)

The projected video can be seen on Susana’s blog with more images too: http://anagua.wordpress.com/

Wei Wen's - Chinese Calligraphy piece

Wei Wen's - Chinese Calligraphy piece

The video that was projected on to the open book above can be viewed on Wei’s blog here: http://zulovelife.wordpress.com/

Kenji Ko's 040908/040909

Kenji Ko's 040908/040909

See and read up on the background of Kenji’s project here: http://kenjiko.wordpress.com/

Simon Ball's - On Getting Lost in the City

Simon Ball's - On Getting Lost in the City

Simon Ball's - On Getting Lost in the City (head on view of wall)

Simon Ball's - On Getting Lost in the City (head on view of wall)

More can be seen and read of Simon’s piece on his blog: http://simonthebold.wordpress.com/

Have a seat. Zai Tang's Sonorous City

Have a seat. Zai Tang's Sonorous City

Isaac seated and all ears whilst experiencing Zai Tang's Sonorous City

Isaac seated and all ears whilst experiencing Zai Tang's Sonorous City

Read and see more on Zai’s blog: http://zaitang.wordpress.com/

The rest of my images came out really blurry so you’ll have to visit the MA Digital Arts web site to see more student work: http://mada2009.madigitalarts.co.uk/

The next two days I was down for the AM shift of invigilating. The time flew fast and I got to know Ayhan Oensal (http://log.oensal.net/), an online student who was exhibiting in the show and also invigilating. His work is about raising awareness of HIV/Aids and is done so through a short video which has a narrative open for interpretation.

I will miss the students that have now finished the course. They were a great lot to be amongst with good knowledge of their various fields of expertise/practise. The added varying senses of humour and the general good company they provided resulting in the year passing very fast was a very positive aspect of being at Camberwell. I hope the next academic year goes just as well or even better!

Building blocks

April 30, 2009

This building for the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, was apparently inspired by the famous mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo, Egypt.

It’s a lovely modern design with distinctive shapes forming the overall structure (like the kind of blocks that kids play with) and its location surrounded by water allows it to stand out clearly in the landscape.

Museum of Islamic Art - Doha, Qatar

Museum of Islamic Art - Doha, Qatar - Image from Qatar Museums Authority

Ibn Tulun mosque - Cairo, Egypt. Image from www.wahyuinqatar.wordpress.com

Ibn Tulun mosque - Cairo, Egypt. Image from http://www.wahyuinqatar.wordpress.com

Looking at the images on their website, it is actually quite easy to see the evolution from the old design of the  Ibn Tulun mosque to this new design and yet the old still looks as grand as the new. And even though thisn ew building is not a mosque it does share some of the architectural features that are prevalent in most. For example the bridge that links the building to the land has a central oblong of greenery which is reminiscint of the water ways that lead up to many of the worlds famous mosques including the Alhambra and also the Taj Mahal.

Alhambra, Spain - Image from Wikpedia

Alhambra, Spain - Image from Wikpedia

Not to mention those mosques that are surrounded by water or lie on river banks such as this one in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur (below).

Mosque in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur

Mosque in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur - Image from http://www.stuckincustoms.com

Btw I think that’s some remarkable photography!

And here’s one more:

Mosque on water - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Image from Wikimedia

Mosque on water - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Image from Wikimedia

Looking back at the museum, there are also the two towers at the back which look very much like Minarets – the towers from which the calls to prayer are usually announced from Mosques. There are the windows and entrance ways which are mostly arched.

This deliberate choice of features forms a strong link to the history of Arab architecture, for the most part because Islamic and Arab architecture is basically known as the same thing and this didn’t really make a mark in history until the first Mosques were built.

A museum such as this will therefore need to reflect the movement of architectural styles through time and yet convey the origins from which is arises. By using the look of a mosque the building is given a higher status too as an important place for gatherings.

Luckily most public buildings in Muslim countries are built with prayer facilities so anyone who is mistakenly drawn to the building for this purpose will hopefully not be too disappointed.

You can see and read more about the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha here: http://www.mia.org.qa/english/index.html#about/build

And for those interested in seeing photos of 100 beautiful mosques from around the world here you go: http://muslimworker.com/2009/03/100-beautiful-mosque-pictures-around-world/

The very Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman

March 8, 2009

I’ve been back a week now and I thought I would have been blogging straight away but alas I’ve been completely run off my feet. Admittedly the first couple of days after I came back from holiday I felt like I should give myself time to adjust from being all relaxed and lazy into being in a super productive mode. Who was I kidding – it was just a waste of my own time and now I am paying for it.

But going to Muscat was great for inspiration. The Grand Mosque was especially beautiful and abundant in colourful and varying examples of geometric patterns. The architecture had all the usual features of a major mosque: minarets, arches, courtyards and an ornate prayer hall. It was spacious and clean and even minimalist in a way (except for the prayer hall which appeared to be a grand showpiece of the local craftsmanship), for the majority being large blocks and shapes of white stone and marble. Whilst walking around I found alcoves and crevices where patterns decorated the space with colourful tiles or simple engravings and cut-outs. As we were there in the morning and the sun was shining in all its glory, the effect of the light, forming shadows, reflections and generally brightening the whole place up, seemed almost like a dream. I am so glad we faced the 30+ degree temperature to venture over that day.

For those visitors who were unfamiliar with this style of decor and the history and relevance of it, there were plaques with brief explanations of why the chosen styles were used (please see gallery).

I have to say I do enjoy photography even though I’m not that familiar with all the settings that can produce better images. With my own photos I think composition works best and I like to convey the different views of a building – how it looks completely different when looking from even a step away from the previous view.

Anyway, these patterns made me realise that I want my work to be focused on a contemporary take on the everlasting traditional geometric patterns used in the Islamic world. So I just need to produce my own ones through a different medium. Not too hard right? Actually, it’s very hard just trying to decide which medium to use. But for now, with less time on my hands than I had anticipated I’m going to concentrate on making some pretty patterns of my own. Which means I need to go back to practising the traditional method I failed to complete last month.