In this essay, I’ll write about Tilya-Kori Madrasah and what I perceive as the ‘architectural thought’ conveyed in its design. Architectural Thought as defined by Michael Brawne in his book—Architectural Thought: The Design Process and the Expectant—is “… primarily non-verbal thought.” Architects, or designers in general, have the power to convey something non-verbally either through drawings, models, or the structure itself. Though that is not to say that they are the only ones who can communicate non-verbally, there are musicians, artists, filmmakers too. However, in this paper, I’ll be focusing on an architectural work.
Tilya-Kori Madrasah is a mosque and a school building in Uzbekistan. It is mostly known for its facade adorned with rich patterns. In general, Islamic Architecture is very much detailed and adorned with intricate designs and those designs are what I perceive as the architectural thought of Tilya-Kori Madrasah. Something that isn’t verbal to begin with, but it communicates and resonates with people.
Islamic Architecture are mosques with the exception (or probably the only exception) of Taj Mahal, because it is a mausoleum. It’s highly important to point out that patterns, for them, are simply not just to make the structure appear more visually appealing. It’s deeper than that. The patterns are connected to the emotion ‘awe’ which then leads to transcendent, spiritual joy,
The emotion that we feel as we see large-scale structures or natural landforms like mountain ranges or cathedrals is called awe. It’s related to the feeling of “small”-ness and this feeling is one step closer to transcendence. Having this enormous thing in front of you can get you off your mind and instead focus on the now. Then, the mind goes for the patterns.
In the book Architecture of Happiness, philosopher Alain de Botton explains why islamic architecture is adorned with patterns, “Muslim artisans covered the walls of houses and mosques with repeating sequences of delicate and complicated geometries, through which the infinite wisdom of God might be intimated. This ornamentation, so pleasingly intricate on a rug or a cup, was nothing less than hallucinatory when applied to an entire hall. Eyes accustomed to seeing only the practical and humdrum objects of daily life could, inside such a room, survey a world shorn of all associations with the everyday. They would sense a symmetry, without quite being able to grasp its underlying logic. Such works were like the products of a mind with none of our human limitations, of a higher power untainted by human coarseness and therefore worthy of unconditional reverence.” That is the architectural thought that I perceive in the mosque above.
The pattern in the facade has the ability to resonate with people even if it’s, in a sense, non-readable. Alongside with the huge-scale, the patterns can stop your mind from ruminating and get lost in the beauty of something that you do not usually see in the mundane of life, something that is Allah-like*.
From their usual state, people will begin to feel awe, solely from its huge presence alone, and then the patterns will have transcended them and that this is a place of Allah. of someone holy and larger than the rest of us.
To end, in general, the designers of every islamic architecture building wanted its people to feel the presence of Allah from the buildings itself and to have the buildings support them through their religious journey. This is my view on architectural thought of Tilya-Kori Madrasah and I dare say that it’s interesting how they can make people feel even without actually “saying” something and that is also what’s interesting about architecture- the ability to convey narratives through design.
*In context, I used the word “Allah” instead of “God” out of respect as I am discussing an example of Islamic Architecture