Capital Mystery

Figuz Ama Camii

Firuz Aga Camii. A small mosque in the Sultanahamet district of Istanbul, Turkey. I have to give credit to Google Maps for this one…

So I’m focusing on this mosque to try to make a greater point. Architectural styles may change from one culture/period to the next, but the basic fundamentals of building mechanics (until recently) have remained more or less universal. We all have to work within the same physical laws of nature. Arches, domes, barrel vaults, corbeling, and post and lintel construction are all ubiquitous techniques for construction the world over. You build by stacking one thing upon another. I have yet to discover a culture true to Gulliver’s Travels where one builds from the top down… not withstanding a particular exception over at the American College of the Building Arts….

In any case, the point that I’m getting at is that while traveling around, a lot of the individual components of buildings you see are the same. The differentiating factors are composition and ornament.

Turkey is no different: the architecture of it’s mosques are largely based on the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine structures that predated Islam. But the tenants of Islam prohibit the depiction of the human form. And so as a result, Islamic ornamentation was produced using beautiful geometrical patterns. Combined with clean geometrical volumes, this new combination of composition and texture created another step in the development of architecture.


A fine example of Islamic ornament.

After a while I was always able to find the key to laying out these patterns: usually a series of regular geometric shapes laid over top of each other. However something that I was unable to figure out were the three dimensional applications of those patterns. To be honest I still don’t even know where to start. But I did do a few sketches. Below are a few examples I spotted around Istanbul. The drawing I did was of a column capital at Firuz Aga.


Column Capital at Aga Camii

Column Capital at Firuz Aga Camii. The fundamentals of plinth-base-column-capital are intact. But that capital… I mean come on. I wonder what the Greeks would have thought….

Capital Sketch


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