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Mashrabiya: The Latest Architecture and News

Polished, Private, and Passive: Traditional Courtyard Houses and their Timeless Architectural Features

We have seen in recent residential projects the need for bringing the outdoors inside, whether it's through green walls, biophilic designs, or interior courtyards, especially in countries with dry and hot climates. When it comes to countries of the Arab world, creating these outdoor-inspired inner spaces is a lot more than just bringing in some sunlight and fresh air, it is an architectural expression of a rich culture that transcended generations and inspired nations beyond their borders. In this article, we will explore how cultural and social norms influenced the creation of traditional courtyard houses in Arabian countries and how their unique architectural features were reimagined in modern contexts.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)By Ali A Suliman . Image via ShutterstockCourtesy of Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)Iwan . Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)+ 19

Bahia Rodin Museum / Brasil Arquitetura

© Nelson Kon
© Nelson Kon

© Nelson Kon© Nelson Kon© Nelson Kon© Nelson Kon+ 36

  • Architects: Brasil Arquitetura
  • Area Area of this architecture project Area:  3055
  • Year Completion year of this architecture project Year:  2002

Light Matters: Learning From Vernacular Windows

Before computer daylight simulations were used to optimize the atmosphere and energy in buildings, generations of builders developed simple principles to create the best windows for their site. Two lighting experts have studied these traditional openings in buildings to find inspiration for more sustainable designs today. Francesco Anselmo, a lighting designer at Arup, and John Mardaljevic, Professor of Building Daylight Modelling at the School of Civil & Building Engineering of Loughborough University, have analysed the sun and skylight variations from northern regions like Stockholm down to the equator in cities like Haiti or Abu Dhabi.

Read on to learn more about the variety of traditional windows.

Window in Rome, Italy. Image © VELUX GroupWindow in Stockholm, Sweden. Image © VELUX GroupWindow in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Image © VELUX GroupWindow in London, Great Britain. Image © VELUX Group+ 7

Light Matters: Mashrabiyas - Translating Tradition into Dynamic Facades

The delicate mashrabiya has offered effective protection against intense sunlight in the Middle East for several centuries. However, nowadays this traditional Islamic window element with its characteristic latticework is used to cover entire buildings as an oriental ornament, providing local identity and a sun-shading device for cooling. In fact, designers have even transformed the vernacular wooden structure into high-tech responsive daylight systems. 

Jean Nouvel is one of the leading architects who has strongly influenced the debate about modern mashrabiyas. His Institut du monde arabe in Paris was only the precedent to two buildings he designed for the harsh sun of the Middle East: The Doha Tower, which is completely wrapped with a re-interpretation of the mashrabiya, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum with its luminous dome.

More mashrabiyas, after the break...

BURJ DOHA, Doha, Qatar (2002 – 2012). Architecture: Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Image © CSCECBURJ DOHA, Doha, Qatar (2002 – 2012). Architecture: Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Image © CSCECBURJ DOHA, Doha, Qatar (2002 – 2012). Architecture: Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Image © CSCECLOUVRE ABU DHABI, Abu Dhabi, UAE (2007 – under construction) Architecture and image. Image Courtesy of Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Artefactory, TDIC, Louvre Abu Dhabi+ 28