THE SYMMETRY OF ARCHITECTURE
Andalusia’s real jewels lies in its magnificent palaces. Since its construction 800 years ago, the legendary Alhambra in Granada has always been the gem of Moorish heritage in the Western world. The 142,000 m² of sprawling palace city, was built over 150 years by a succession of rulers. Each was committed to leaving behind a unique imprint and an individual style. The site went through several construction phases. First, they built the original 9th century citadel, then the 14th century cluster of Nasrid palaces, and eventually the 16th century palace of Charles V was built last. Because of this sporadic development, Alhambra grew without an overall homogeneous master plan. Hence, its plan is neither orthogonal nor arranged over a base grid. It is rather adopted to the topography of its natural plateau. Nevertheless, the palace city symbolises an ingenious piece of engineering. The very first building was commissioned by a Moorish emir from the Nasrid Dynasty on top of the Assabica hill, overlooking the Sierra Nevada Mountains. As the last stronghold of the crumpling Muslim Empire, the intention was to lavish the emir’s palace with extravagant details, to try and pump up his fading reputation and restore his image. In addition, it had to meet the demands of an entourage of thousands of officials and civil servants, needed to administer the complex. The Nasrid palaces are a visual representation of Andalusian tour de force, developed during eight centuries of Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula. The building style evolved as a statement which enforced the authority, and individuality of the Western Islamic dynasty. It stamped the superiority of its rulers, outside of the other Islamic powerhouses like Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo. And in a way, it introduced the culture of embracing and merging, the different stylistic influences of the European societies, the Moors lived among and built ties with.
The Hall of the Ambassadors located inside the Torre de Comares, a 45 metre high defensive tower on Alhambra’s north wall, is a treasure chest enclosed by ancient walls that safeguard the grandiose master works of arts and architecture. The edifice of Alhambra is thus designed to show the scale of geometry discovered by the Moorish rulers, using the genius and power of mathematics. The most striking is the ceiling above, pieced together from over 8,000 small cuts of cedar wood, dovetailed one into the other, and painted to emulate the seven heavens. It also represents the divinity of the infinite universe. This same wood is used to make intricate patterns of interlaced woodwork, which encases the windows around the entire perimeter of the throne room. Delicate and fragile, these screens cloak the outside world. And behind their cool shield of latticework, those inside retreat in shaded enclaves, while gazing out into the lush landscape. From inside, the space resembles a giant lantern, with an interplay of light and shadow. It traces floral patterns on the interior which evoke the mystique and magic of the universe. The awe and splendour continue in the exquisite details showcased in the plasterwork panels. Inside, the carved stucco is weaved into an emotional architectural experience, which projects a more complicated style of integrated geometrical shapes, superimposed on scrolled floral motifs called ataurique. These delicate stuccoes emulate the textile quality of fine silk, with its gold threads displayed over a large canvas. Nasrid masons loved experimenting with light and colours, using a vibrant palette of reds, blues and greens to paint the stuccoes. The result is an overwhelming composition of interconnection and superimposition of different ornamental elements. There are calligraphic inscriptions, geometric lazo, ataurique and mocárabes.
Ataurique - repetitive decorative motif consisting of a vegetal or floral pattern ...