The Production of Meaning in Islamic Architecture and Ornament

Yasser Tabbaa

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Collects Yasser Tabbaa’s writings on transformations in Islamic architecture and ornament in relation to parallel theological and political changes
  • Discusses monuments in Syria and Iraq, many of which have vanished without being properly studied
  • Explores innovations in medieval Islamic architecture within the shifting political and theological landscape
  • Reaffirms the centrality of the Abbasid Caliphate in these innovations and their dispersion throughout the Islamic world
  • Expands on the role of poetry in the transmission of garden and fountain types from the eastern to the western Islamic world
  • Investigates the unprecedented expansion of Shi’i shrines in Syria, largely due to Iranian patronage

This volume collects Yasser Tabbaa’s investigative and interpretive articles on medieval Islamic architecture, ornament and gardens in Syria and Iraq, with comparative expansions into Anatolia, Egypt, North Africa and Spain. Tabbaa examines the monuments, many of which have vanished in recent years, within the context of the political divisions and theological ruptures that characterised the Islamic world between the 11th and 13th centuries.

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Part I: Syria

1. Monuments with a Message: Propagation of Jihad under Nur al-Din

2. Survivals and Archaisms in the Architecture of Northern Syria, ca. 1080-ca. 1150

3. Circles of Power: Palace, Citadel and City in Ayyubid Aleppo

4. Dayfa Khatun: Architectural Patron and Regent Queen

5. Defending Ayyubid Aleppo: The Fortifications of al-Zahir Ghazi (1186-1216)

6. Originality and Innovation in Syrian Woodwork of the 12th and 13th Centuries

Part II: Iraq

7. The Mosque of Nur al-Din in Mosul, 1170-72

8. The Resurgence of the Baghdad Caliphate (1050-1258)

9. The Politics of Patronage in Medieval Mosul: Nur al-Din, Badr al-Din, and the Question of the Sunni Revival

Part III: Domes

10. The Muqarnas Dome: Its Origin and Meaning

11. The Muqarnas Domes and Portal Vaults of Cairo

12. Andalusian Roots and Abbasid Homage in the Qubbat al-Barudiyyin in Marrakesh

Part IV: Writing

13. The Transformation of Arabic Writing, I. Qur’anic Calligraphy

14. The Transformation of Arabic Writing, II. The Public Text

15. Canonicity and Control: The Sociopolitical Underpinnings of Ibn Muqla’s Reform

Part V: Gardens

16. Typology and Hydraulics in the Medieval Islamic Garden

17. Control and Abandon: Images of Water in Arabic Gardens and Garden Poetry

18. Eternal Hunting Fields: The Frescos at Qusayr ‘Amra as a Pastoralist Interpretation of the Paradise Garden

Part VI: Shrines

19. Invented Pieties: The Revival and Rebuilding of Shi‘ite Shrines in Contemporary Syria

20. Glorifying the Imamate: Architecture and Ritual in the Shi’i Shrines of Syria

21. The Functional Aspects of Medieval Islamic Hospitals.

Yasser Tabbaa was Dorothy Kayser Hohenberg Chair of Excellence in the Department of Art at the University of Memphis until his retirement in 2014. He is the author of Constructions of Power and Piety in Medieval Aleppo (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997), The Transformation of Islamic Art during the Sunni Revival (University of Washington Press, 2001; paperback edition, 2002), Najaf: The Gate of Wisdom, in collaboration with Sabrina Mervin (UNESCO, 2014) and The Ayyubid Era: Art and Architecture in Medieval Syria with A. Moaz, V. Daiber & Z. Takeiddin (MWNF, 2015).

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