Friday, October 25, 2013

The Development of Qatari Architectural Patterns

The Development of Qatari Architectural Patterns


Patterns and motifs constitute a significant element in traditional and contemporary architecture. They represent cultural values and significant identities in different parts of the world. Architecture works as a container of different art works, among them are patterns and decorative motifs that articulate the architectural design and enforce messages and meanings conveyed by the architect to the public. The use of patterns and motifs by architects in contemporary Qatari architecture does not rely on valid and reliable information and knowledge. Patterns are being imported from different parts of the world and used in Qatari buildings without reference to historical or cultural context. This is due to the lack of rigorous research and publications in that area of research. This eclectic practice resulted in the loss of contemporary Qatari architectural identity. In order to achieve a contemporary Qatari architectural identity, research in the areas of architectural elements and principles used during the development of Qatari architecture is required.


Patterns and motifs were always a significant element of architecture. In the Islamic world, patterns were used on religious, public and private buildings. They signified important religious, cultural and social aspects. Patterns and motifs reflect significant signs and symbols valued by the society and have always formed a major part of Islamic aesthetic expression. Traditional patters were used not only as a decorative element but they also served environmental, social and cultural needs. Open carved panels (naqsh) were used to allow north breeze (shamal) inside the rooms while protecting it from sand and dust. It also provided appropriate privacy levels to women inside the house. In this system, the relief carving was taken right through the plaster panel, normally about 50mm thick. Examples are present in few traditional buildings in Qatar including old palace of Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah at Rayyan, the wind tower building in the centre of Doha and in some of the buildings in al Wakra.

Contemporary Architecture

Modern architecture of the 20th century called for the abundance of patterns and motifs and the use of plain walls. Modern materials such as reinforced concrete, steel and aluminum also promoted the abundance of the use of patterns and motifs. Modern architecture resulted in the loss of identity and the repetition  of the same architecture styles all over the world. During the 1970s, Post-modern architecture attempted to consider the past and revitalize it. Yet, no consideration was given to the local historical and geographic locality. 
Critical regionalism called for the recognition of subtle differences between different regions and localities. During the turn of the century and the impact of globalization of communication and services, architects and designers from different parts of the world are offering their services to clients in different parts of the world. Lack of understanding and scientific references prevented these professional from access to valid and reliable resources. 
Many contemporary architects of the 21st century are utilizing architectural patterns and motifs in their interior and exterior design to cover the surfaces of their design, utilizing advanced technologies to form steel and aluminum into decorative patterns. These second building skins serve several purposes including; representing cultural identity, providing sun protection and displaying high-tech image. Yet many of them are not using appropriate reference to Qatari patterns due to the lack of valid and rigorous sources. Contemporary buildings such as Doha Tower and Texas A&M at Qatar Foundation are utilizing Islamic patterns to cover their facades. While these patterns might belong to Islamic patterns in general yet they are not reflecting the particular identity of Qatar. 


Issam El-Said, Tarek El-Bouri (1998) Islamic Art and Architecture: The System of Geometric Design. Garnet Publishing Ltd.
Eric Broug (2008) Islamic Geometric Patterns. Thames & Hudson.
Daud Sutton (2007) Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry. Wooden Books.
Eva Wilson (1988) Islamic Designs. The British Museum Pattern Books.
Sheila R. Canby (2005) Islamic Art in Detail. British Museum Press.
J. Bourgoin (1974) Arabic Geometrical Pattern and Design. Dover Publications Inc.
Pepin Van Roojen (2009) Islamic Designs. Agile Rabbit.
Pepin van Roojen (2011) Arabian Geometric Patterns: Neuauflage. Pepin Press.
Shigeki Nakamura (2009) Pattern Sourcebook: Patterns from Nature 2: 250 Patterns Inspired by Nature: 2. Rockport Publishers.