Historical Best Practice
When we look at 1,200 years of Islamic geometric design in art and architecture, it is possible to identify certain principles that have guaranteed consistent design excellence. Regardless of whether it was a Marinid madrasa in Fez, a Mamluk minbar in Cairo or a Seljuk caravanserai in Anatolia, certain rules were always adhered to. It is one of the miracles of Islamic geometric design.
The old structures that sustained this design excellence mostly disappeared in the 20th century and, as a consequence, knowledge is not transferred.
The challenge for architects and designers is to use this design heritage creatively and with the same sophistication as previous generations have done. Awareness of historical best practice offers more creative freedom and opportunities to work with the same innovative ethos that is such an integral part of this tradition. This is what will reinvigorate this heritage and make it ready for the 21st century.
The Seven Principles of Best Practice
1) Made to Measure (framing)
2) Continuous Lines
5) Using a grid to structure a composition
7) Engaging with your audience
The Current Situation
Nowadays, Islamic geometric design in architecture does typically not demonstrate awareness or application of these principles of best practice. The most common mistakes are:
1) limited use of patterns
2) reliance on copy ‘n paste
3) incorrect tessellation
4) incorrect framing
5) lack of historical or regional specificity
6) partial knowledge
It’s educational to see what current Islamic geometric design looks like when these errors are made. You can see more examples under #badgeometry on instagram.
NB:The term “Bad geometry” doesn’t have anything to do with personal preference or taste. Instead it seeks to identify, with (hopefully) objective criteria, how these design errors diverge from historical best practice.