The IAMM Architecture Gallery features architectural scale models and building parts, attesting to the wide-ranging Islamic architectural forms. Highlights include a wall of various decorated tiles from across the Muslim world, and the dazzling décor of the Damascus Room from Ottoman-ruled Syria.
Tiles are very much like a building’s skin. In many parts of the Muslim world, tiles are the element of choice to protect a building as much as to dress it up. Many feature calligraphy, such as Qur’anic verses or words of praise. Vegetal and floral decorations are also common. More rarely, some tiles feature pictorial scenes from famed literature works, like the Shahnameh (the ‘Book of Kings’).
Capitals add strength to columns, and are often sculpted. One palace complex in al-Andalus, called Medinat al-Zahra, used to stand on tens of thousands of columns with capitals. While many of these marble capitals were imported from across the Mediterranean, some were also sculpted on site. Deep engravings ensure that the vines and tendrils stand out.
Up to the 19th century, wealthy merchants in Ottoman Syria decorated their living rooms lavishly. Guests were welcomed in a room clad in wood painted in the ‘ajami style of gesso relief and gold leaf. Small mirrors, placed strategically across the room, control the amount of light and heat. Poems from a qasida in praise of the Prophet Muhammad line the upper part of the room.