Patterns in Arabic Architecture

Islamic geometric design in architecture: from ancient to modern times

The artistic wealth of the decorative styles seen in the Maghreb (Moroccan style), the Middle East and the Muslim world in general, has always captivated western and oriental visitors through the extravagance, complexity and exuberant detail of the two genres that stand out: Islamic geometric design and floral arabesques.

In terms of design, this art form has long virtually ceased to evolve, its development having reached its zenith centuries ago. The designs currently created in the Islamic world for the decoration of riads, palaces or mosques are copies of works created in past ages, which have been replicated again and again based on a limited back-catalogue.

Variations on the original works are minimal, even in terms of scale, colors and motif combinations, due to the inherent limitations of the human mind and the technical difficulty of producing new combinations within the geometric genre using traditional methods, particularly in interlaced designs, where each line must travel alternately above and below each line crossed, adding an even greater degree of complexity.

CSS TemplateFully decorated Moroccan Riad

CSS TemplateFully decorated Moroccan Riad

Islamic geometric design on stained glass panelsIslamic geometric design on stained glass panels

Islamic geometric design with interlaces on a hardwood floorIslamic geometric design with interlaces on a hardwood floor

CSS TemplateMoroccan Riad in evening lightning

CSS TemplateMoroccan Riad in evening lightning

Over the course of history, much research has been carried out into the mathematics behind Islamic geometric patterns, all uniformly affected by a common hindrance: the analysis is partial and incomplete, leaving mysteries unexplained. The mathematical principles governing Islamic mosaics are yet to be unmasked and traditional artisans are the only people to master the art, but only empirically.

This empirical understanding of the complex geometry behind Islamic patterns directly conditions production methods, where for example, far from modern industrial technology, the ceramics used to produce Moroccan ceramic tiles known as zellij is cut using a hammer and chisel and the highly elaborate plasterwork with both geometric designs and floral arabesques is carved by hand directly on the walls of the buildings to be decorated. The same is true of wood, stone and bronze, which are always crafted using artisanal techniques.

Watch this video to learn about our technology and the fabrication processes that allow us to design and implement modern Islamic decoration the world over.

With these reflections in mind, it is understandable that the use of Islamic geometric and floral design as decoration in modern architectural projects with an Islamic theme presents countless challenges. Designers are limited to copying existing motifs or using amateur software to produce designs resembling Islamic geometric art, which never confront the rules of the art form head-on.

Alternatively, they have to limit themselves to using ornamental items of inferior artistic quality such as many commercially available painted ceramic tiles, which are a far cry from the beauty of traditional zellij. Or, on the other hand, trust their hearts and souls to artisans and limit the decorative work to the traditional service they can provide.

The growth of the tourism industry in many Arab destinations ranging from Morocco to the Arab Gulf countries, and the unparalleled expansion of the real estate industry in the region, has renewed the world's interest in Islamic architecture and Islamic interior design.

It is evident that the sheer size of the construction industry in the Gulf region, worth over two trillions dollars, where over 800 meters high skyscrapers are built in merely 5 years, needs a higher production rate than the traditional industry based in craftsmanship can provide.

The following video shows a complex design with floral arabesques being carved in plaster. We can also carve wood, MDF, stone and every other material in the AEC industry.

The need to bring Islamic design into the 21st century is apparent. After two years of research and development, Nomad Inception has developed a technological platform that allows us to implement Islamic geometric patterns and floral arabesques, the heart and soul of Islamic decoration, with a modern approach using CAD tools and mechanized fabrication processes.

Our state-of-the-art methods have the potential to fundamentally transform the way the industry is developing in regions where architecture should reflect the Islamic values of the societies that the infrastructure is being built for.