Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Secret Life Of Arabia

Gothic architecture history can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire and the height of the Arab reign over the East. Christopher Wren (1632 - 1723), a multidisciplinary scholar and renowned architect, discussed these early origins and addressed the Muslim influence on its beautiful and intricate designs. Imprints of these Muslim designs later came to influence European and Western architectural ideas.

The origins of many structures can be found in mosques and palaces built during the Ottoman empire. Arabs of that time translated past Greek architectural influence into their own distinct style, a style that remains the origin of Gothic designs found in Europe, Africa and other countries. France was one of the first European countries to utilize the unique design, and it is said to be the place of origin for European medieval design. Stemming from France, the style developed and grew in new directions with the building of cathedrals and other Christian structures.

The origin of Gothic architectural design in the Arabian world began with a desire to create buildings and mosques that were different from churches and other western-inspired structures. Their ideas and inspirations produced excessive boldness, distinct sections of inordinate detail, and into designs with extreme delicacy and fancy patterns. Moreover, much like the beauty and passion the Arabs put into their poetry and literature, their architectural designs originated from a delicate taste of superfluous ornaments, extravagant detail and a desire to communicate to their audience a love for art and detail.

Meticulous detail and a dedicated attention to what would normally be missed at a quick glance was also, and still is, a trademark of the Gothic design that originated from the Arab world. Interestingly, today there is a heavy emphasis put on cathedrals and churches when referring to this specific design type. However; the distinctive detail and intricate nature is explicit and dominant in many of the mosques and palaces that were created during the Ottoman empire, and also during the reign of the Muslim empire in the east.


Mr. W. Kasper said...

Weirdly, this relates - thematically - to a long post I've been planning on punk, or rather post-punk ('punk' itself was really just an overhyped prologue to the much more interesting main feature). Listening to many of its key bands recently, certain lyrical obsessions/perceptions stand out. You touched on it in your 'Wall of Voodoo' post last year, but I want to isolate aspects distinct to the UK in the late 70s/early 80s.

Your link is somewhere between my own intended 'angle' and Owen Hatherley connecting post-punk to post-war architecture a couple of years ago - a post I've been trying to find, but can't locate for some reason. Can anyone provide a link?

Phil Knight said...

Can't help with Mr. H, I'm afraid.

I was musing here about Arabian/Islamic culture influence specifically on Goth, and the Gothy end of post-punk. Killing Joke and Caberet Voltaire ("Red Mecca") are other obvious examples, but also Siouxsie ("Arabian Knights"/"Israel"), The Cure ("Killing An Arab") etc.

I suspect there's a really deep vein here - Arabian culture as the intersection of Darkness (the clothing, the cavern-like houses) and Gold (the domes of the mosques, the desert etc.). Are the dark clothes of Goths a hidden yearning for the Burqa?

Mr. W. Kasper said...

It's a bit of a fixation for goth (or goth-esque) bands of the time isn't it? There's some connection with gender anxieties there. The Cure's follow up to 'Killing an Arab' was 'Boys Don't Cry'. Those Siouxsie songs you cite are about domestic abuse/male violence (as so many of her songs are). Goth-bashing is connected to queer-bashing in a way. At the time there was a sense of nightlife being threatening for both (and loads of post-punk bands did songs about sex murderers like Sutcliffe too). Then there's the mishmash of Victoriana and feminine mystique/power - the make-up, the violent fairy tale imagery, the childlike paranoia in many of the key songs. 'Orientalism' extends to a lot of post-punk really, even its use of dub, exotica etc. In some ways I see it like a literary genre, very distinct in its lyrical motifs and obsessions.

Phil Knight said...

Well, I see it as more mythical personally. It's quite fortuitous that the original Medieval Gothic was also Arab-influenced.

But then maybe it's more than mere fortuitousness. Maybe there really is an Arabian archetype that exists in our culture. I'm not really convinced that Orientalism is simply a colonialist projection.

Given that hatred is so often based on what we recognise as prominent (or lacking) in ourselves, I sometimes wonder if Islamophobia is not at root based on an Arabian/Magian identity, a goldenness, that we instinctively recognise as having lost.

Tenuous and metaphysical I know, but then that's me.

Mr. W. Kasper said...

Tenuous and metaphysical, but an interesting approach to pop-culture 'moments'. Which may go some way to explaining their semi-magical hold on certain generations. It wasn't reflected in the pop charts anyway - you don't get Joe Dolce or Orville on today's retro soundtracks, and I doubt Bucks Fizz will ever be the subject of a prestige biopic.

But yeah - there is that element of 'lack' in so much bigotry, fetishisation etc. Goes back to Alexander's army getting into a froth at the idea of Persia having great sex and living in luxury - they're having too much fun! Let's go and burn it all down! There's always a darkly kinky aspect to war propaganda. I'm reckon a lot of neocons envied how the Taliban enforced sexual morality anyway.