After its sudden appearance on the margins of the great Middle Eastern civilizations in the 7th century, Islam expanded within a few centuries to become the cement of an empire that stretched from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. However, because it integrated the cultural heritage of the conquered territories with the religious and social values transmitted by the Qur'an, Islamic civilization, although in essence recognizable, visibly displayed considerable variety.
Architecture is the most immediate visual testimony of this civilization. Although it has experimented with various stylistic orientations in different regions, Islamic architecture has always preserved its distinguishing characteristics, the most important of which is the fundamental role given to surface decoration. As human representation is forbidden in Islamic religious monuments, designers employed mosaics, stucco, brickwork and ceramics, and the vigorous use of brilliant colour to reach unparalleled heights of expression. It is this ornamental dimension of Islamic architecture that is explored in this volume.
Rather than limiting itself to an exclusively historical or chronological perspective, Ornament and Decoration in Islamic Architecture presents four successive approaches to its subject. The first part offers an overview of Islamic architecture, discussing the great diversity it contains. Dealing exclusively with techniques, the second part considers the materials most often used as well as the expertise of the builders and Muslim decorative artists, and the third part explores themes in Islamic ornamentation. Section four discusses aesthetics, and studies the relationship between the buildings - the structures or their architectonic components - and their ornamental coverings.