Architectural Decoration in Islam: History and Techniques

  • Ruba Kana'an
Reference work entry

Architectural decoration has been one of the most resilient of the Islamic arts. The partial and more often overall decoration of buildings has been a characteristic feature of Islamic architecture from the eighth century onwards. Religious monuments as well as secular complexes have been decorated with an array of styles and techniques that reflected the multiplicity of Muslim societies and their cultural expressions. The importance given to decorating one's built environment has also been applied to temporary settlements such as tented encampments.

Up until the eleventh century, most decorative techniques such as the use of decorative brickwork or moulded stucco in the Muslim east, and mosaics, ablaqand carved stone in the central Muslim world were inherited from pre‐Islamic cultures and societies. Muslim artisans transferred these skills into their respective contexts and adapted them to their architectural needs. It was only in the eleventh to thirteenth centuries that the use of...
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Al‐Faruqi, Isma’il R. and Lois Lamya’ al‐Faruqi. The Cultural Atlas of Islam. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1986. Especially Chap. 8. The Arts and Chap. 21. Ornamentation in the Islamic Arts.Google Scholar
  2. Al‐Hassan, Ahmad Y. and Donald R. Hill. Islamic Technology. An Illustrated History. Cambridge: UNESCO, 1986.Google Scholar
  3. Allan, James. Abu'l‐ Qasim's Treatise on Ceramics. Iran 11 (1973): 111–20.Google Scholar
  4. Al‐Qasimi, Zafer, et al. Qamus al‐Sinaat al‐Shamiyah. Damascus: Dar Tlas li ‘l‐dirasat wa ‘l‐tarjama wa ‘l‐nashr, 1988.Google Scholar
  5. Al‐Radi, Selma. Qudad. The Traditional Yemeni Plaster. Yemen Update 34 (1994): 6–13.Google Scholar
  6. Amin, M. M. and Laila A. Ibrahim. Architectural Terms in Mamluk Documents 648–923/1250–1517. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1990.Google Scholar
  7. Blair, Sheila. Islamic Inscriptions. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  8. Blair, Sheila and Jonathan Bloom. Tiles as Architectural Decoration. Islam. Art and Architecture. Ed. Markus Hattstein, Peter Delius. Cologne: Könemann, 2000. 448–51.Google Scholar
  9. Bloom, Jonathan. On the Transmission of Designs in Early Islamic Architecture. Muqarnas 10 (1993): 21–8.Google Scholar
  10. Burckhardt, Titus. Art of Islam. Language and Meaning. London: World of Islam Festival Trust, 1976.Google Scholar
  11. Clévenot, Dominique and Grerard Degeorge. Ornament and Decoration in Islamic Architecture. London: Thames and Hudson, 2000.Google Scholar
  12. Critchlow, Keith. Islamic Patterns. An Analytical and Cosmological Approach. London: Thames and Hudson, 1976.Google Scholar
  13. Floor, Willem. Traditional Crafts in Qajar Iran (1800–1925). Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, Inc., 2003.Google Scholar
  14. Harb, Ulrich. Ilkhanidische Stalactitengewölbe, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1978.Google Scholar
  15. Hedgecoe, J. and Salma Samar Damluji. Zillij. The Art of Moroccan Ceramics. Reading: Garnet Publishing Ltd, 1992.Google Scholar
  16. Jones, Dalu. The Elements of Decoration: Surface, Pattern, and Light. Architecture of the Islamic World. Its History and Social Meaning. Ed. George Michell. London: Thames and Hudson, 1978. 144–75.Google Scholar
  17. Milwright, Marcus. Fixtures and Fittings. The Role of Decoration in Abbasid Palace Design. A Medieval Islamic City Reconsidered. An Interdisciplinary Approach to Samarra. Chase Robinson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. 79–100.Google Scholar
  18. Nasr, Sayyed Hossein. Islamic Art and Spirituality. Lahore: Suhail Academy, 1987.Google Scholar
  19. Necipoǧlu, Gülru. The Topkapi Scroll: Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture. Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1995.Google Scholar
  20. O'Kane, Bernard. Timurid Architecture in Khurasan. Costa Mesa, CA.: Mazda Publishers, 1987.Google Scholar
  21. Saliba, George. Artisans and Mathematicians in Medieval Islam. Journal of the American Oriental Society 119.4 (1999): 637–45.Google Scholar
  22. Shani, Raya. A Monumental Manifestation of the shiete Faith in late twelfth-century Iran. The case of the Gunbad-i ˓Alawiyān, Hamadān. Oxford Studies in Islamic Art, Vol. 11, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. pp. 172.Google Scholar
  23. Tabbaa, Yasser. The Transformation of Islamic Art during the Sunni Revival. London: I. B. Tauris, 2001.Google Scholar
  24. Wulff, Hans E. The Traditional Crafts of Persia. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1966.Google Scholar


  1. Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, UK.
  2. Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, UK (1301 treatise)
  3. IRCICA, the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture, Istanbul
  4. Islamic Art and Architecture Organization
  5. Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  6. Numerical Geometry Study Group, University of Heidelberg. http://www.iwr.uni‐ and the Takht‐I Sulayman muqarnas drawing http://www2.iwr.uni‐

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruba Kana'an

There are no affiliations available