Muqarnas in Islamic Architecture: Development, Materials, and Techniques

Keywords: aesthetics, building material, decoration, digital technologies, geometry, Islamic architecture, muqarnas


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Muqarnas was first created during the first millinium AD and became a defining feature of Islamic architecture during the second mellinium, specifically between the 11th and 16th centuries, both in religious and secular contexts. Although largely abandoned by the 17th century, the use of muqarnas decoration reached its peak during the above period. This study examines muqarnas, its three-dimensional architectural embellishment, as well as its development and influence on modern architecture. For this purpose, the descriptive analytical approach was employed. Architectural surveys were carried out at the local level,  while textual analysis was done to analyze the historical development. The history of muqarnas was traced from Islamic religious buildings to modern architecture. It was found that digital technologies including Computer Aided Design (CAD) and computer numerical control (CNC) have influenced muqarnas pattern design and rebirth in the 20th and 21st centuries. Both ancient and modern muqarnas use isometries and symmetry, although their design procedures are different. Parametric design and CAD tools allow the current muqarnas to be dynamic and flexible, unlike the traditional ones. The current research underlines that regionally available materials and pattern availability affect the design of muqarnas. Early manifestations of muqarnas were used to fragment squinches, which ultimately led to the creation of an aesthetically pleasing formal mechanism and a system of three-dimensional decoration. In the middle period, muqarnas was also used as decorative carvings on structural member. At present, lightweight materials such as fiberglass and pre-fabricated muqarnas are preferred in contemporary architecture, although the details of muqarnas are still maintained for their aesthetic value. The geometry used to calculate muqarnas has remained the same since its development, regardless of the materials used. This research stimulates the design of new muqarnas patterns for aesthetic purposes and building performance optimization. Modern architecture uses muqarnas compositions and digital technologies to reflect the traditional cultural and historical patterns, creating a developing trend.


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How to Cite
Naz, F. (2024). Muqarnas in Islamic Architecture: Development, Materials, and Techniques. Journal of Art, Architecture and Built Environment, 7(1), 1-16. Retrieved from