THE MATHEMATICS OF ARCHITECTURE
Because of its three-dimensional quality, mocárabes is the most intriguing of Islamic ornamental motifs. Sometimes known as stalactite or honeycomb moulding, it is a precisely calculated geometry of shapes. Made up of a collection of squares, rectangles and triangles. The combined effect forms vertical prisms whose bases are moulded into concave cones. This genius in creativity creates a symphony of solids and voids, light and shade, among a pattern of scalloping and stalactites. Mocárabes is widely used in vaults, arches, cornices and capitals throughout Alhambra. The vast range of textures on display opens infinite possibilities to the imagination and turns the space into a gripping maze of discovery. At eye level, the architectural whole of the composition is completed by the mystique of glazed and cut terracotta tiles, contributing in their own way to the striking impression of the universe. The decorative zillij mosaics lock the eye into a moment of trance inside a star-based pattern, and a jigsaw puzzle of heavenly precision and perfection.
Eight hundred years on and people are still struck by the sheer scale of Albambra. For years, no one understood that the power of intrigue lies in how the entire building is a result of precise mathematical calculations, that conveyed a space of unimaginable proportions. The dimensions of every shape in the palace are based on an ancient unit of measurement, adopted from the classic systems of calculations. Out of the torpedo of intellectual wealth the Muslims inherited in Baghdad, they came across two diverse mathematical approaches, which they moulded into something unique. The two different mathematical theories came from the ancient civilisations of India and Greece. The first of the traditions, which came from the Greeks is based on geometry and the science of shapes. It also shows how to calculate areas and volumes. The other tradition was from India and was based on the decimal system, which simplified mathematics. With an in-depth understanding of the proportions attributed to geometry, combined with a more practical way of calculation a Persian mathematician called Muhammad ibn Mūsā Al Khwārizmī, was able to unravel the mystery of algebra. As a fundamental subject in science, algebra was used to calculate mass, distance, speed, energy and the refraction angles of light. It is the kind of knowledge, which developed Islamic architecture and engineering into a science far ahead of its time.