Monday, September 13, 2010

Milan Duomo in Comparison with the Sultanahmet in Istanbul

The Duomo in Milan is a classic example of a Gothic cathedral and easily recognizable by its many spires and intricate detail. Unllike most cathedrals the apex or the center is not the highest point of the building. Here it is much more relatable to the typical styles of a mosque. Below the Sultanahmet mosque from Istanbul can be seen with its minarets on either side of the structure. Both styles keep the focus on the central apex by creating a dominating negative space around it.
The Duomo in Milan
Photo by Ethan Weber
The visuals similarities begin with the main structure coming to a point in the center and its spires on either side rising even higher. Cascading domes gradually increasing up towards the apex have a simplicity in their numbers unlike that of the cathedral's spires. Both buildings rely heavily on symmetry. Just as most mosques, the inside of the Sultanahmet below embellishes the scripture of the Qur'an through Kufic designs and patterns. The inside of the cathedral in Milan does the same with the stained glass windows that depict different saints and stories from the Bible. The difference is in the use of images versus strictly design. Each take advantage of all the space on the inside of the buildings to display scripture and to tell the tale of their respective religions.

Sultanahmet mosque in Istanbul
Photo from Flickr by DarkB4Dawn

The emotions emitted by the mosque are that of tranquillity through simplicity. The inside gives a similar feeling through complexity. In comparison, the Duomo displays an intricate structure that overwhelms the viewer in complexity. While both buildings display a dominance over their surroundings, the Duomo does so more abruptly with its straight verticals. The agenda of both buildings seems to be authority and power just as much as to honor their respective religions.

Islamic Mosques & Gothic Christian Cathedrals

Despite their differences, both the Islamic and Christian faiths have offered beauty in their own right, to the world. One such beauty is the architecture of the Islamic Mosques and the Christian Cathedrals.

Central to the Islamic religion is obtaining unity with the one god, Allah, but not through the use of false idols or images. Thus, the Islamic faith developed the science of sacred geometry. Sacred Geometry is meant to capture and remind one of the complexities of Allah, but also, through the symmetry and unity of forms, allow one to become closer to the divine, closer to Allah. The forms invite one to ever expand his or her mind, and transform the ethereal world into something substantial with physical harmony.

These shapes are expressed within and outside the mosque structure. Early mosques had flat tops with arched entrance ways, and were based on a rectangular plan. These mosques, known as Hypostyle Mosques, also featured covered prayer halls which were vertically supported by columns and arches. Later mosques began to feature central domed prayer halls, with many smaller domes surrounding them, as well as circular towers known as minarets. Iwan Mosques featured either two or four iwans, vaulted spaces which open on either end, and an open courtyard used for prayer. Islamic mosques contained a structure known as a mihrab, a recess, mostly in the form of a arched niche, facing the direction toward mecca.

Christian Gothic Cathedrals were built to inspire through the grace and elegance of forms, to make one believe that they were truly standing in the kingdom of their lord Jesus. Many Gothic cathedrals were positioned with an East to West alignment, making the light, passing through the eastern stained glass Rose window (a circular window positioned centrally depicting many different religious icons including the mother Mary, Jesus, or perhaps a dove), essentially lead one form the material world deeper into the "halls of heaven." Before entering the Gothic cathedral, one will notice the towering spires, similar to that of the Islamic minarets but stylistically different, and also many support structures known as flying buttresses, which helped support the heavy weight of the roof. Upon entering, one would pass through the nave, a central aisle, and notice the many pointed arches which also help to support the tall and massive ceilings.

"Gothic Field Guide to Architectural Terms." 2009. (accessed 9/13/2010)

Trueman, Chris. "Gothic Church Architecture." 2000. (accessed 9/13/2010).

"Medieval Gothic Cathedrals." 2006. (accessed 9/13/2010).

Irfan, Hwaa. "Sacred Geometry of Islamic Mosques ." July 4, 2002. (accessed 9/13/2010).

"Religious Architecture and Islamic Cultures, Fall 2002." 2005. (accessed 9/13/2010).

Contrasting Differences Between a Mosque and a Gothic Cathedral

The inside of a Mosque displays an ornate decoration reflecting an infinite pattern. The Mosque contains no objective imagery, only lines and designs that correlate with one another. Patterns often repeat and play off of one another intertwining and eventually becoming one large design overall. Another common feature is the pointed arch. Islamic influence often uses a rounded arch with a definite point at the top of every arch. The Mosque is considered to be divinely guided, and the patterns represented inside are meant to imply this idea. Mosques must point in the direction of Mecca. Mosques also use calligraphy as an abstract design, along with bright vivid colors.

Gothic cathedrals were often very large structures which used architectural elements such as groin vaults and flying buttresses. Many Gothic cathedrals also had stone roofs, rather than wooden ones like previous churches. Gothic cathedrals were much larger than their predecessors, such as those from the Romanesque period. Gothic Cathedrals were designed with many large decorated stain-glass windows, which allowed for a colorful well-lit interior. Groin vaults were similar to islamic arches, except that the groin vault had a much more subtle point near the top of the arch. Flying buttresses allowed new ways of distributing weight across large stone walls, and were often adorned with sculptural features such a gargoyles or other religious symbols.

Mosques and the Modern Day Church

Mosques and Churches both are representations of the House of Allah or God.

The Blue Mosque of Istanbul / Sultan Ahmed I Mosque

The Blue Mosque of Istanbul construction began in 1609 and was completed in 1616, with opening ceremonies in 1617. The design of the mosque is a combination of two spectacular empires, the Ottoman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. The mosque includes some Byzantine elements but keeps with the Islam traditional architecture and aesthetics. The exterior of the mosque was designed as cascading domes that tapper down to earth from the main center dome.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque came by its second name The Blue Mosque of Istanbul due to the over 20 thousand blue tiles that line the interior of the structure and the primary blue paint that decorated the inner upper parts of the mosque.

Blue is one of the sacred colors of Islam; it is the color of protection and used in many of the mosques built around the world. Staying true to Islam traditions, the walls and ceilings are decorated with precise geometric shapes, arabesque designs and calligraphy; incorporating sections of the Qur`an and Allah in the design.

With immediate comparison to a modern day church, two things are very apparent to me. In this beautiful mosque, there is no iconography (the use of icons) of God (Allah) and no depictions of Prophets and Saints and there stories on display. Second in comparison, you can immediately tell that one is a place of worship.

The Church used to be unmistakable; there was an immediate representation of God or Jesus on the face of the building, leaving anyone no doubt after passing that this was a house of God. The faces of Saints and Prophets lined the walls and stories from the bible are depicted in detail on the stain glass windows or in portraits lining the surrounding walls. Once you enter a church, normally the first icon you see is the figure of Jesus Christ on his crucifix.

Now seeing a Church you turn and second guess yourself, since the building you are looking at looks very similar to a doctor or business office. Even the sign out from has gone from being a proud display of religion to a subtle advertisement. After comparing the Mosque of Istanbul and a modern day church, I have come to realize that the differences are far from what my short description has touched upon.

The Islam culture and the mosque have not changed in centuries however, our culture of churches and places of worship seem to be de-evolving into hidden building in plane sight.

References Sites:
Photo Reference Sites:
Photo of Common Yard of the Blue Mosque of Istanbul
Photographer: "zoutedrop"
Photo of interior shot of The Blue Mosque of Istanbul

Photographer: "Janet"
Photo of close shot of caligraphy and tile works in the Blue Mosque of Istanbul

Photographer: "Colorado Ben"
Photo's(2 exterior and 1 interior) of St. Johns Catholic Church in Central Omaha, Nebraska
Photographer: Nigel Cox
Photo of Upton Lea: Catholic Church of the Holy Redeemer near to Slough, Great Britain

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bruce Linn Lecture

A Lecture by Bruce Linn to be presented Monday, 9/13 at 3:30pm in VAC 113

Bruce Linn is an artist and curator. His lecture, “The Wealth of Nations,” is an entertaining, straightforward narrative. It goes into detail about his work as an artist and as an art curator, and how they inform each other.  Linn argues that his work in the studio as an artist has created a high-level of self-knowledge, connoisseurship, and keen intuitions, and has led to insights on how people use material culture to reflect their values. The lecture tells the story of the steps involved in pulling together recent exhibitions he’s curated, what the goals were he had in mind, and how these exhibitions affected his work as an artist. His recent curatorial projects include "ReSOURCE: Artists who use collecting to create or inspire their work" and "The Death of Painting Is Dead.” The most recent exhibition of his own paintings was called “Aesthetic Refugees,” which included images of suitcases and arks containing the objects we hope to save as lasting reminders of ourselves, both, as individuals and collectively as cultures.