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The aesthetics of the Arab architectural metaphor
by Barie Fez-Barringten   
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Beauty, aesthetics and perceptions:
No discussion of beauty would be comprehensive without including aesthetics, sometimes synonymous with our concept of beauty. In fact it is "our" sense of perceptions that really concerns us. To what are we responsive? What is relevant to our place and time? (1.0)John Dewey believed that a truly aesthetic experience is one where a person is unified with activity. (1.1)It is an experience that is so engaging and fulfilling that there is no conscious distinction between self and (1.2)object. An aesthetic experience is one in which the attributes of both the individual and the environment or the internal and external are in harmony. Our experience with physics, nature, society, politics, religion, geography, etc. of our time and place are the elements of our "potential" metaphors. (1.3)They are potential until we exert the effort to either reify, exude or manifest these into a form. It is our way of claiming this time and place. To gain our identity in this time and place we are compelled to create and perceive from our encounters with things of the present with extent reality. Our metaphors belong to us and superceed, parallel or subordinate to others. Their relevance and embroilment into our context makes the difference.Published as: The Aesthetics of the Arab architectural metaphor"
“International Journal for Housing Science and its applications” Coral Gables, Florida.1993

The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

by Barie Fez-Barringten Associate Professor: Global University: (Researched & written while on the faculty of King Faisal Universty (now Dammam University) in Dammam, KSA. 1994)


The Aesthetics of the Arab architectural metaphor"

Published by the “International Journal for Housing Science and its applications” Coral Gables, Florida.1993


Beauty, aesthetics and perceptions:

                          No discussion of beauty would be comprehensive without including aesthetics, sometimes synonymous with our concept of beauty. In fact it is "our" sense of perceptions that really concerns us. To what are we responsive? What is relevant to our place and time? (1.0)John Dewey believed that a truly aesthetic experience is one where a person is unified with activity. (1.1)It is an experience that is so engaging and fulfilling that there is no conscious distinction between self and (1.2)object. An aesthetic experience is one in which the attributes of both the individual and the environment or the internal and external are in harmony. Our experience with physics, nature, society, politics, religion, geography, etc. of our time and place are the elements of our "potential" metaphors. (1.3)They are potential until we exert the effort to either reify, exude or manifest these into a form. It is our way of claiming this time and place. To gain our identity in this time and place we are compelled to create and perceive from our encounters with things of the present with extent reality. Our metaphors belong to us and superceed, parallel or subordinate to others. Their relevance and embroilment into our context makes the difference.

(1.0) Howard A. Osman., and Craver, S.M., "Philosophical foundations of education" (1.1) Dewey J., "(1859-1952) (1.2) Husserl: Phenomenology: to go back to the things themselves. (1.3) Sartre (1905 1980) French existentialist

                     Human consciousness tries to be its objects and any meaning that we encounter in the world we must construct ourselves. It is therefore apt for us to look beyond what the eye can see in Saudi Arabia to the experiences and processes which cause indigenous Saudi Arab architectural works. It is in this way that we too can participate in the metaphors of Saudi Arabia. The following analysis is based on the scholarly research of Y.M.O Faden, and the principles of Paul Weiss, John Dewey, Edmund Husserl and Jean Paul Satre. Thanks to Faden we can examine the metaphor with illustrations of the courtyard, multi story traditional house; the Bayt, Dar and housing in Mecca. The "beautiful" metaphor: The metaphor exudes its' truth and the reality of its' existence. It is interactive and vibrant. It contradicts its' static consistency and permanence over time. It is the same, yet ever changing its' ingredients as we perceive and use it in our present context. Metaphors are towering monuments to their maker and "commonality" of their divergent particulars.

                      They are worthy of our attention, and bring to what we are to live, an intercessor by those makers long since gone. When we experience a metaphor we experience another's life form. Our life and the idea expressed by the metaphor are unified and communicate. At that moment who we are and our purpose of "being" is defined in part or totally by the metaphor. The metaphor absorbs our whole consciousness and seems right for this time and place. We are learning creatures and metaphors feed our need to grow and develop. Metaphors pose themselves before us, exhibiting their parts and demanding further investigation. They are there for us to return like an old friend or companion. They make up the landscape of the world around us and inspire us to make other metaphors. To know a metaphor is to desire more metaphors and remember its' affect.

                          The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

                We can also see that the traditional metaphors of Saudi Arabia's heritage is the result of direct experience. If not vicarious and euphoric then personal and specific. Whatever is strange is made familiar, prototypes are cherished for their accessibility. These works are the artifacts of a morphology which represents the potential of Saudi's future. To be in the future these experiences can be continued and extrapolated into a different technological context. Metaphors differ from each other and should not be limited or constrained except by very broad definitions. We can make, observe and experience them; perceive and remember them, and we can use and work with them. Their adaptability and diversity to our variations seems infinite. We try to particularize metaphors but as any created constant they resist being coveted. At both extremes a metaphor may have been tailor-made for very peculiar and individual situations or for a general and global idea. Both metaphors will be equally appealing and operate as a sovereign creation.

                     The individualistic metaphor will work in the global and the global in the provincial contexts. Critics of metaphors tend to look for consequence, matching intentions to applications, but while this ideal may have its' virtues it does not hold for all metaphors. Yet metaphors must be communicative and find that language, syntax and grammar which transcends nationality, religion, geography etc. We want our metaphors to simultaneously belong to us and yet desired and understood by others. We want our metaphors to be very peculiar and special for only us and yet a legacy for our children. We want our metaphors to be specific to our beliefs and origins and yet we rejoice when they impact or are even imitated by others. The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor In a recent editorial column Saad Al Bazei in his "spotlight" column of the Riyadh Daily called "where do they fit?", discussed and questioned the matter of ownership (identity) of literary works: the authors, the language (English, French or Arabic), the cultures, or the country? In any case, the issue had been raised in a recent issue of "Time" magazine. It "spotlights" the duality by which we perceive world class metaphors: both belonging to a time, place, people, language and particular (often peculiar) circumstances, while at the same time being part of all literature, architecture, ballet, etc. The metaphor includes both. Metaphors are delightful, entertaining, and educational. They are unique. They are both intrinsically tied to one media, time and place and yet can be translated into other forms. They can be connected to other metaphors and enhanced, but never degraded.

             The more they are tested the more they reveal. Each metaphor is attracted and retains our attention by some appropriate duration. We know that it is the aggregate of qualities in a metaphor that pleasurably exalts the mind that we call beauty. It is as though to ascribe beauty to a metaphor would be to doom it to a single beholder. The one who senses pleasure from the metaphor. We hesitate to deal with the nature of beauty and how this nature applies to metaphors. The Aesthetics branch of philosophy deals with the nature of beauty, art, taste and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. The way in which this monograph has treated the perception of architecture in Saudi Arabia has been to use the logic of the metaphor's function to understand the various observations, assumptions and descriptions of Saudi's built environment.

                        The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

                Metaphors can be beautiful, elegant and attractive. They can even be pretty. But we do not always make metaphors to be pleasing by delicacy or grace. There are metaphors which will be delicate and graceful where the composer has so intended these characteristics. But, this is inherently superficial. However, metaphors can be superficial and conventional. The metaphor may communicate weakness but itself will be strong. Some will make metaphors which will lack in strength and as such may be pretty not forceful, purposeful or intense. The makers of metaphors will often start out to make something pretty or a work of beauty but once involved in creating the work soon shift to those elements that achieve relevant, contextual and thematic presence. This is true for Saudi Arabia as it is for anywhere else in the world. Form and metaphors: This monograph represents a preoccupation with architectural forms in Saudi Arabia. In pursuit of these forms it is necessary to define the characteristics of the shape and structure. We examine the materials used, not because they derive the form, but because they are part of the metaphor. We therefore need the vocabulary of local materials, structures and shapes to articulate the essential nature of Saudi's metaphors. Form is often an architects way of determining one from another kind of building to differentiate architectural metaphors. We also refer to the forms of process that are peculiar to the way Saudi Arabia makes its' metaphors and becomes at once the form of both process and product. Not the same but compatible, related and integrated form. So it is necessary to screen all the information possible about Saudi Arabia for what is pertinent about its' forms.

                         The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

             Often at the expense of content, factors about form have been selected and emphasized. Consequently, content is often merely mentioned assuming the reader has a background or may find other works to fill this gap. Without our specific reference to Saudi Arab shapes, structures, and even materials, a perspective about Saudi Arabian architecture will be abstruse and strange.

                          Knowing only the forms peculiar to Saudi Arabia observations will merely be abstractions difficult to match to reality. Further, since these observations come from a reality it is best for the reader to experience the same detail as the writer. In this way it is hoped that authors communicate to their readers in a relevant language, which is both understandable and enjoyable. To make architectural metaphors one must be concerned about shapes, structures and materials because they limit and bound architectural metaphors. Metaphor may be discussed independently but with specific bounds and limits the treatise is more tangible. Furthermore, a treatise without a methodical discussion of relevant facts and principles becomes a story. But what facts and what principles? In this treatise the ones about architecture, form, Saudi, and Arabia. Courtyard House: (2.0)Faden says that the courtyard house has minimum exposure to the outside world as does the family who inhabits it. It is a completely different conception of the domestic dwelling from that of America and (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O.,

"The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia". ans much of 1Europe.

"In Arabia the traditional courtyard house can be found in almost all regions, particularly Najd and al Hasa. In the regions of Hijaz and Asir this traditional house type is usually found in remote inland areas (in villages and small towns) where a hot, dry climate predominates."

                      The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

               Consistent with well known general characteristics, the traditional courtyard houses that are built in the regions of Najd, al Hasa, Hijaz, Asir are usually clustered around a central courtyard. They are falt roofed with high parapets with thick walls and few or no window openings toward the street sides. Seldom more than two stories high (except for occasional extra rooms built on sections of the roof area). The falt roof is used extensively for many essential functions such as eating, sleeping, etc. So much of these characteristics are carried metaphorically to the design of modern day metaphors. (2.0)Mud construction was indigenous to much of Najd (including Qasim oasis), al Hasa Oasis (excluding the coastal area), inland portions of Hijaz and the Najran Oasis on the south southeastern portion of Asir. Asir is where the earth itself offers the only readily available building material. Although the preparation of the mud for house construction was generally identical in all regions, the conventional building techniques sidely applied in Najd and al Hassa Oases were not used in the Najran Oasis. Instead of using the regular sun dried mud bricks as construction material the wall and parapets of the traditional (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O.,

"The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia". 1. A.F. Bemis and J. Burchard, 2nd, "The Evolving House: A history of the House". courtyard house of Najran were constructed out of a successive and continuous solid course of mud layers each about twelve inches high, puddled and laid in position and shaped by hand to form the wall.

                         The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

               (2.0)Each layer had to dry before the next was added. Apart from fulfilling structural purposes of building techniques the horizontal lines of these layers add a unique texture to the external appearance. This very pattern has, itself, become a visual symbol for the "Najran" building and for this area is a metaphoric form factor. It is recognizable and reminiscent of a people and the process used to build. Log cabins that we associated with Bavaria today and America yesterday are similar in so far as the building process and the product it produces are visually interactive. One can imagine the personal effort used to make the building. It is crafted and the result of a special manual skill and its' experience with materials. (2.0)While mud constituted the basic building material of the courtyard houses of Najd, al Hasa Oasis and the Najran Oasis the traditional courtyard house of the coastal plain of al Hasa was built from what was readily available in that region. The coral stones found along the coastal plain and off shore were wisely used in the construction of the courtyard houses of that area. Coral stone is the most efficient building material used in that al Hasa because of its availability and capacity to absorb the excessive air moisture characteristic of coastal areas.

1 (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O., "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia".

                        The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

              The multi story traditional houses: Faden says that (2.0)"despite the understandably common use of the courtyard house, consider its' significant contribution to the traditional multi story house. Such houses conform to socio cultural criteria and respond to natural environmental obstacles while meeting specific social needs. Thus the general characteristics of this house-type does not deter master builders and occupants from adapting it to their lifestyle and traditions. A 1study of the widespread use of the multi story house in certain areas of the Middle Eastern region may explain this preference. In Arabia (particularly the regions which compose modern Saudi Arabia), the multi story traditional houses are found only in Hijaz and Asir. Generally, the dwellings are now houses (as in Hijaz and the urban settlements of Asir) or semi attached houses (as in the rural areas of Asir) whose plans may vary according to the specific needs stemming from the natural or artificial limitations of the land.

                        1. (2.0)According to Faden among the numerous studies done on the traditional courtyard house, see, for example: Guy T. Petherbridge, "The House and Society," in Architecture of the Islamic World, George Mitchell, ed. (New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc.), pp. 176 308; H and J.M. Didillon, and C. and P. Donnadieu, "Habiter les maisons mozabites"; Michael E. Bonnie, "Aridity and Structure: Adaptations of Indigenous Housing in Central Iran," in Desert Housing, Kenneth N. Clark and Patricia Paylore, eds. (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1980), pp. 195 219; Ronald Lewcock and Zahra Freeth, The Traditional Architecture in Kuwait and the North Gulf (Worthing, Sussex; Flexprint), and the many articles and books by Hassan Fathy. (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O., "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia".

                        The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

"Comparison of the courtyard to the multi story house":

(2.0)Traditional courtyard house's external and internal character is formed by external windows that are limited or eliminated altogether as a response to both the harsh climatic conditions and says Faden the importance of seclusion and privacy for the traditional Muslim family. The extroverted character of the multi story traditional houses of Hijaz (where the windows are found in outer walls) is inconsistent with what has been claimed for the courtyard houses. Respect for privacy and seclusion in these multi story houses by an elaborate wooden latticework that covers a considerable area of every window opening. Some use rawashin (Mashrabiyyas) to control the intensity of sunlight while admitting air into the house. This is an important factor in protecting the internal character of these houses. Rawashin in turn simultaneously screens outsiders from scrutinizing the interior of a home while allowing the inhabitants a view toward outside. The outside world with its' social, political and economic activity. Not only the things of nature. If it were only for nature the consideration would differ. These are the things which compose the metaphor and which the metaphor negotiates. (2.0)Social concern in these courtyard and multi story houses is also expressed (metaphored) through various forms of barriers in the internal organization. For example, the traditional courtyard house has a baffle wall located near the entrance hall which screens the vision of passersbys. This adds to the privacy of the householders. The courtyard house likewise can contain another interior courtyard or several courtyards where domestic social activities are conducted out of the public view. (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O., "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia".

                          The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

                 Around this court are the multi functional rooms where female members find retreat and privacy. Where there is a second floor the rooms are used by the married members and/or as sleeping compartments during the winter. (2.0)The vertical arrangement of the various elements of the multi story traditional house provides maximum privacy. Generally the rooms adjacent to the entrance hall on the ground floor are regarded as male quarters.

                         The head of the family receives and entertains his male friends on this floor. Also he may use the rooms as a business office (as we will see in the case of the Meccan house). In the multi story house in the rural areas of Asir, the ground floor space is characteristically used for storage and stables. In both the courtyard and multi story houses, the roof terraces play a socially significant role. On these roof terraces privacy is created by partitions and parapets of up to six feet. This privacy is respected by a social and moral agreement between neighbors to refrain from building houses overlooking the existing terraces. Here families socialize in the temperate evenings. Bayt: (2.0)In the Arabic language the term "Bayt" means a covered shelter where one may spend the night. It is a common Arabic word for 1"dwelling" whether in the tent of the nomad or in the house with its' simple components of room and walled open space in front such as the houses of the Prophet's wives (Buyut Zawjatal Rassul). See Creswell's, "Early Islamic Architecture". (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O., "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia". 1. dwelling in German language is "bau" and english "den", as a place not necessarily built but where the self resides, becomes, exists and maintains.

                         The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

              (2.0)The bayt could be used as an individual self contained medium size dwelling for one small nuclear family including flexibility for expansion to accommodate the increase of family members (it could also be called dar another Arabic word for medium to large house). The usage of the two terms "bayt" and "dar" to designate a particular house can be recalled from Ibn Shabbah when he was describing the location of Rabah's house, where he used the two terms for the same house.

                  In Arabic the definition bayt is also used in a metaphorical and figurative sense. For instance, (2.0)bayt aal Arrassul which designates nobility and prestige. The bayt may sometimes designate a sanctuary: thus in Arabic with the article, al Bayt is applied to the holy place at Mecca called (2.0)al Bayt al Haram (sacred house) or al Bayt al Atik (ancient house). For more information about the term see (2.0)Ibn al Manzur's Lisan al Aarab, and Encyclopedia of Islam. (2.0)In larger houses (larger Dwar sigl Dar) one can find part(s) of the house which can also be called bayt. Such as the living units of Meccan houses (see also (2.0)al Tanukhy's, Nishawar, al Khatib al Bughdadi's Tarikh and the Thousand and One Nights." (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O., "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia".

                         The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

                Dar: The term "dar" is most commonly used to designate a house. The root of this word comes from "dara" (surround) which is a 1space surrounded by walls, buildings, or nomadic tents. Unlike the term "bayt", "dar" describes a physical form rather than a metaphysical (or ethereal sphere.

                      Dars tend to be larger than bayts with more rooms and utilities such as latrines and baths. Dars have three sizes: (2.0)First, small dar. This type has limited room space elements and generally has no hammam (latrine). It can also be called "bayt". (2.0)Second: medium size dar. It has one or two courtyards (in the case of Meccan houses with two or more terraces), and a larger number of rooms according to family size with the probability of accommodating one or more dependent servants. (2.0)Third: large dar. The size of this type results from a combination of two or more smaller dars, and its' elements tend to be more specialized for specific functions, and commonly accommodate more than one social group (the principle extended family or families, the servants who live in the house and servants who work only periodically). (2.0)According to the size of this type of dwelling, it can be called "medina" or "qasr". The usage of the two terms "dar" and "medina" for a particular house can be derived from the account of al Samhudi's Wafaa al Wafa about Yazide ibn Abdul Malike's dar in Medina. When he asked a Medinee (man from Medina) delegate in his presence about his dar, the Medinee answered Yazide that he did not know that he (Yazide) had a dar in Medina, but when Yazide asked for further explanation, the Medinee explained to Yazide that his dar (Yazide dar) was not merely a dar but it was regarded as a medina in Medina (city within a city) because of its spaciousness. (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O., "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia".

                 1. space in this sense in the "raum" in German and English "room" (2.0)Early fustat dars were generally large complex buildings, some of which were composed of elements other than residential; for instance, dar al Tamr which had commercial shops, storage and warehouses; and dar Abd al Aziz, which has a mosque within is boundary. (For more information, see (2.0)al Maqrizi's Khitat Misr)." Housing Significance: (2.0)Traditional houses are constructed with appropriate building techniques using locally available materials. Master builders are sensitive to the socio cultural values and needs of the families for whom they are building. They are familiar with the harsh natural constraints upon design and construction. These builders (masters or otherwise) succeed in finding a balance between preserving socio cultural norms and adapting housing to fit climatic conditions. (2.0)For example says Faden the traditional courtyard house of Najd has little need for windows because of the need to allow women maximum freedom of movement within their own quarters while eliminating the (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O., "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia". possibility of their being viewed by strangers. The restricted family quarter is oriented toward internal courtyards. Courtyards also significantly maximize air circulation, cooling and filtering the dusty air during the summer season. Windows are needed to ensure proper ventilation and light. Careful window screening using a lattice woodwork represents to both climatic and socio cultural requirements. (2.0)The rawashin (mashrabiyyahs) of multi story houses of Hijaz provides a logical answer to the problem of ventilation and light. The rawashin are used by the women of the household to have visual access to street activities without being visible.

                       The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

                 (2.0)There are distinct features underlying principles of the traditional houses. The internal organization for example, divides the house into two main sections. The first is the living quarter designed for the use of closely related members of the family, particularly the female members and male "mahram" (unmarriageable males). This section is located either away from the entrance (in the courtyard house) or on the upper floor (in the multi story houses). Except for storage areas, latrines, and cooking areas almost all space within this particular area (open, semi open, or closed) is used for a variety of function, such as sleeping, eating, family and guest socializing and household work. The second section is designated for receiving male relatives who are not mahram but other male visitors and guests. This area is arranged so as to be independent from the rest of the house thereby allowing male visitors easy access without disrupting the privacy of female householders. It is designed in such a way that it maintains its position as an integral part of the house. (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O., "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia". Introducing the Metaphor's Components (Housing in Mecca):

                         The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

                     (2.0)As Dr. Faden traced the methods by which innovations were introduced into the traditional housing of Mecca he noticed two methods: indirect and direct. In the indirect method the enlargement of the Great Mosque played a major role in the transformation of the building skills and techniques of local master builders. The history of the Great Mosque's enlargement goes back to the second Caliph Omar Ibn al Khatab (cira 17 A.H. 638 A.D.).

                     The second enlargement noticed Faden was during the Caliph Othman period (26th A.H.). Later Caliphates and Muslim rulers (rulers from Damascus, Baghdad, or Cairo) used the expansion of the Holy Mosque as an excuse to justify themselves as worthy of the title "Amir al Muminin" "The Prince of the Faithful." They sent money, building materials and even master builders from their capitals to undertake the expansion. The use of arches, columns and the accompanying detailing of the Great Mosque were learned by local master builders and used widely in construction of the traditional Meccan houses. In 1979 Mu'a'lim Abdallah Kamal, who is a veteran master builder told Dr. Faden that just before modern building materials and techniques were introduced in the 1930's he would study the Mosque's colonnade to learn how Egyptian's connected stones. Even without a detailed description of the large projecting windows indicated by al Muqaddasi Faden believes that the mashrabiyyah of the early twentieth century traditional houses of Mecca are of those projecting windows. The wood carved motifs of these mashrabiyyas and the external main doors reflects Mameluk, Ottoman, and even Indian influences. (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O., "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia".

                          The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

                    (2.0)For instance the use of the mashrabiyyas in all traditional housing in Saudi Arabia's western region was an adaptation of an Egyptian model. It was carried over from one context to another. In this way the components is metaphoric to form the metaphor of the western Saudi house. Nevertheless the mashrabiyyas were subject to careful modification according to local conditions. These subcultural influences on the traditional Meccan houses are also apparent in the external doors and arches as well as the decorative motifs on the arches used within the traditional Meccan houses. (2.0)Several other architectural elements and details primarily used in public buildings were modified and used in domestic buildings. Among them is the Dome of al Qushashiyyah.

                     The direct method for the introduction of new building materials and techniques was first used says Faden by Muslim philanthropists who brought with them building materials and perhaps master builders to build madrassas (schools) and ribats (lodgings) for settled pilgrims. (2.0)The other source of direct introduction was the immigrant master builders who settled in Mecca, who applied the techniques of their native countries while adhering to local practices and requirements. The brickwork on the parapets of traditional Meccan houses is an example of this influence. According to almost all Meccan master builders interviewed by Dr. Faden there is also brickwork introduced by Persian master builders many decades or perhaps even centuries earlier which no Meccan master builder could recall. However, the Ajur which is local term for the burnt bricks is in fact a Persian term. These direct and indirect methods influenced the local Meccan house building techniques. (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O., "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia"

                          The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

                  (2.0)The multi story traditional house of Hijaz is a walk up house type of four to six stories. It is thick walled and usually without a central courtyard although a lateral courtyard can be found. This traditional house has large rooms, many wide windows covered with "rawashin" (singular, "rosharn"; a local term for mashrabiyyah), high ceilings and multi level flat roofs divided by approximately six foot high partitions and protected by a wooden or fire dried brick parapet." (2.0)"The adjoining multi story house invariably shares a single common party wall where the plans interlock rather than about one another making for compactness and social "closeness". (2.0)This is evidenced in the old neighborhood configuration of Jeddah, Medina, Mecca and Taif which greatly resemble typical layout patterns says Faden, of Arab Muslim settlements. (2.0)Although the majority of traditional houses of Asir consist of multi story houses they differ in character and design from their counterparts in the Hijaz.

                  The unique traditional architecture of the mountainous southwest (Asir) is exemplified in Abha city. Here houses that rise to four stories are constructed from mud, stones, or a combination of both. They are flat roofed and thick walled with limited openings and a gradual inward sloping wall that imparts greater stability. In the houses built of mud the building technique clearly resembles that used for Najran mud houses (sun dried mud layers). However, due to the higher average precipitation of ten to twelve inches, their master builders ingeniously added a horizontal row of protruding stone slabs between each mud layer. (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O., "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia". The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor (2.0)These "string courses" break up the flow of rainwater which would otherwise dissolve the mud. (2.0)Houses constructed from stone are generally found at higher elevations where stone is readily available and where a stone built structures can best resist the violent winds which frequently occur in the high mountain regions of up to nine thousand feet. (2.0)The stone built traditional houses of Asir feature small doors and windows which prevent intense sun glare and reduce the strength of the drafts from entering each house.

                   In the houses built with a combination of stone and mud the ground floor is constructed from stone in order to sustain the downhill flow of rainwater. The floors above the ground are constructed from sun dried mud brick with protruding stone slabs (applied in traditional mud built houses) used to reduce the influx of rainwater. (2.0)Among the traditional houses of Asir there exists a house type specifically with rural areas. These are easily recognized as they were frequently built in isolated tracts on the terraces of Asir's highlands, surrounded by fields of alfalfa and other crops. In contrast the houses which were built in kinds of urban settlements are usually row houses built in typical cluster configurations. Architectural tradition in Saudi Arabia is more than yesterdays mythabout bygone days of crafts and handmade things. It is alive and functioning in many parts of the Kingdom. The beliefs, legends and customs come by word of mouth or by practice from previous generations. Many of these traditions involve special manual skills that are in practice today. Traditions that are original both to Saudi Arabia in general and specific regions in particular. Many involve inventions, resulting from personal experience in building and settlement. Even the act itself has become a life style and an understood part of personal identity (metaphor). (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O., "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia".

                         The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

                     The price of "identity" is contradictory to change which by definition demands that we do not remain the same. That who we were and where we came from are prior states and although were valid may not be again. Traditions in Saudi Arabia, as elsewhere, confront contemporary life and themselves are components of our metaphors. Metaphors are themselves three dimensional and reference levels above and below what they direct express. Fixity of identity and transience of change. The Saudi dilemma is that of any growing thing: to reify today's program is sure to result in tomorrow's obsolescence.

                Knowing this and having the resources to practically overcome this dilemma most projects have a very optimistic expansion factor. There are even projects built for tomorrows use and not used today. Such projects with these expansion factors generates a metaphor. Its' components signal perception of Saudi's future. The future of the family and the individual. It is the right environment for investing in education, industry and building the Kingdom's infrastructure. It is the rationale for sacrifice for todays stability for tomorrows eminence. This hope of high rank is visibly rooted both in today's metaphors and the Kingdom's accomplishments. In some way they eclipse each other. It is the currency that buys attention and builds one's vocabulary. As the books about architecture's role expressing other societies, times and places so Saudi does with its' "built" infrastructure and settlements. Yesterday's wood, weaving and mud-brick craftsman now sends his children to the many vocational, trade and specialty schools throughout the Kingdom. This child may also participate in the many "on the job" training programs and continuing adult education schools. These develop the crafts to engage the new opportunities and technologies.

                        The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

                    (2.0)Faden describes the indirect method of influencing building design, detailing and construction as one where money, building materials and master builders supplied from outside the Kingdom became the models to emulate for those inside the Kingdom. The components of this metaphorical process then involve alien and exotic materials along with someone to explain how to incorporate them into the work.

                   Others then learn from one example and likewise emulate thus encouraging innovation into the traditional. This further substantiates. (3.0)Paul Weiss's theory than a powerful metaphor will contain alien elements. The direct influence is where both labor and materials are alien and exotic. Both influences in the case of Mecca were not introduced to the exclusion of local indigenous means and methods. Thereby the metaphor thus created and the method used to create the metaphor is in itself a metaphor. A metaphor consisting of two apparently unrelated components combined to express an essence common to both. Where the thing created and the process both describe something beyond the context of each. Where the "work" created; the "work" used, and the "work" perceived is in a compatible language. (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O., "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia". (3.0) Weiss, P., "The metaphorical process" .

                          The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

               (2.0)Next to the main entrance of the house continues Faden there is an entrance hall ("dihliz"), having a floor of either sand or cement. On one or two sides wooden benches (karauit) are arranged where the master of the house receives unexpected visitors. On either or both sides of the hall there are small rooms ("maqaid") which can serve as business offices for the master of the house. The uses may include trade. twafah (guiding pilgrims), reception of intimate acquaintances, sleeping rooms, or for rental to other businessmen. To avoid flood damage to floors, houses built in the valley are built on a level higher than that of the hall. In some houses there are a few steps below the hall to a small room "qabow", used to store merchandise or luggage. The adjoining rooms serve all sorts of purposes. One accommodates close friends who need not got to the upper stories. Another room may be used as a library or writing room, etc.

                    On this floor, as on every floor of the house, there is a water closet "bayt al ma, taharah" which is also fitted out as a bathroom separated by a small wall. These water closets and bathrooms are served by water storage tanks built on one side of the all or by a large clay vessel "zir". On the ground floor where the back wall of the house is not joined to other houses or rocks of mountains, a back door leads to a courtyard which is surrounded on all sides by buildings and connected to the main street by a narrow lane. (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O.,

"The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia".

                          The Aesthetics of the Arab Architectural Metaphor

           (2.0)On the upper stories, the number and size of the "buyut" (residential units) varies but each story has a water closet. (2.0)With ascension the interior space of each story progressively diminishes to form necessary terraces ("sutuh"). For example, part of the floor area of second story will be taken for terraces leaving the third story with much less space. Terraces (sutuh) are an important element for Meccan's houses because many activities take place on them. Such as drying washed clothes, sleeping in the summertime, and family gatherings after sunset. They are where people may enjoy cheerful social intercourse in comparatively fresh and cool air. To accommodate sleeping, the terraces were divided by small brick walls. These bricks are arranged in an overlapping pattern with a space between each two bricks to provide privacy while allowing cooling breezes.

                   Married couples may have their own terrace for them and their children or where several such couples share a terrace it may at least be divided by partitions. Dr. Faden says that with this in mind a small room with little head room "mebit" is often built on such terraces to receive the nuptial bed. In the case of extended families containing several married couples who live in one house each may have their own majlis located in the front facing the street. This may be in addition to the main reception room (majlis), usually on the first floor. (2.0)In the reception room, a wide window with projecting balconies may be found (roshan, mashrabiayyah). Wooden benches ("karauit") are built along the walls, behind windows and furnished with mattresses and hard pillows. Before entering the reception room one must pass through a small "suffah" room. Here is where unexpected visitors are received if on occasion the reception room may be occupied by women. (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O.,

 "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia".

              (2.0)On both sides of the reception room says Faden, there are essential rooms such as the kitchen ("matbakh"), other sitting rooms, water closets, and a space for storage ("khazanah"). The married couples who share the same story will usually make the necessary separations by curtains, wooden partitions, and so forth. For the sake of privacy and to avoid disturbing neighbors each apartment has its' own entrance arranged to avoid facing each other. In general, the living atmosphere within the house is arranged so that unwanted strangers will not disturb the privacy of the family. If part of the house is rented the privacy of the occupants of the upper story will be preserved.

The Rise of a New Prototype (Metaphor):

                   (2.0)"Building of a large number of new extravagant houses coupled with the widespread abandonment and demolition of old houses and street widenings marked the end of building traditional houses and the rise of new prototypes. Sheer numbers do establish "prototypes" unless a certain kind of metaphor image and its perception is inculcated. Faden says "it is legitimate to cite the new houses built by ARAMCO and the government of Saudi Arabia during the 1950's and the psycho social and cultural conditioning which accompanied them. Suffice to recall at this point the logic of functional extension of the housing offices of those early housing programs. Besides doing paperwork, the architects of those offices became aware that in order to provide design alternatives for the houses these new houses must have certain modernistic (metaphor) architectural characteristics. With such a notion in mind we come to understand the reason behind the constant efforts and attempts to make designs of those new houses summarize and synthesize (metaphor) the most up to date western design factors that are supposed to characterize a modern house in Saudi Arabia. Evidently, this is intended to create new housing types for the purpose of winning admirers for the concepts they embody and influencing people to copy them." Metaphor's Metaphor:

                      (2.0)Dr. Faden, himself a Saudi national says that it is not necessary for a government to be consciously determined to have the effect of sanctioning the abandonment of the cultural integrity and the discontinuity of building the traditional houses of its' society. Take for example the government's building activities in Riyadh during the 1950's: the expenditures and the efforts devoted to such a colossal project for the purpose of making Riyadh the most modern city (metaphor) of the country suggests the government's good will and good intentions. But once the government utilized the mass media to keep national goals and national accomplishments always before the public; and, once it began to practice its' newly assumed authority to control the way people build and live, new frames of reference were imposed on the society for the setting of a new lifestyle and new responsibilities. Students of Arabia's architecture are faced by a new challenge: new house types in Arabia are great influences upon Saudi Arabia's society through their differences from the indigenous ones; and their impact stems largely from the adaptation and institutionalization of western urban planning which itself has been a factor in the psycho social and cultural conditioning. In making a metaphor we combine components by analyzing the commonalities and differences. (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O.,

"The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia".

                    (2.0)"Indeed, the early large scale housing programs of ARAMCO and the government of Saudi Arabia have played a considerable role in creating the challenge." The challenge of creation and perception of metaphor's common essence occasioned by the introduction of the "foreign." (2.0)It should be noted says Faden that ARAMCO's building projects in the 1950's and 1960's include parts of Thuqba, Al Khobar, Rahima, Abqaiq, Hofuf, etc. and not just the large new towns and camps we now see in Saudi Arabia. This building program, along with others has indeed done a great deal to establish the prototypes for these areas. Metaphors themselves can be models for other metaphors and a component by which new metaphors may be created. (2.0)These ARAMCO buildings are built in sufficient quantities to form themselves into a context in which any non ARAMCO building may be placed. Many such are so placed considering that which was persistently and earnestly taught by ARAMCO to that which is Saudi Arab. The two will now be combined to achieve the goals set forth in King Faisals ten point program with individual owner's expression. It will also account for the new time and contemporary conditions. It will further accommodate the special identity and functions of the owner, tenants and managers, built and designed to combine traditional with state of the art processes. The concept of the "metaphor" itself benefits by being applied, cast and reified into a cognitive format. Its' extent characteristics are exercised and related to current theories and methodologies. We can see that as a theorem it can illuminate and provide an inclusive structure. As a process it can bring out our ability to perceive. As a product it always is readable within its' own vocabulary, grammar and syntax. The "metaphor" fits to other ways of explaining architecture and is, in fact, enhanced by these others. (2.0) Faden, Y.M.O.,

          "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia".


1.0. Ozman, Howard A and Craver, Samuel M., "Philosophical Foundations of Education" (1981). Charles E Merrill Publishing Co. Columbus, Ohio.

1.1. Dewey, John, (1859 1952) 1.2. Edmund Husserl

1.3. Jean-Paul Sartre pub. 1927.

2.0. Yousef M.O.Faden, "The Development of Contemporary Housing in Saudi Arabia" (1950 2983) A Study in Cross Cultural Influence Under Conditions of Rapid Change). Ph.D Thesis (unpublished) in Architecture, Art and Environment Studies. M.I.T. June 1983. (As certified and accepted by Stanford Anderson, Professor of History and Architecture, thesis supervisor and Chairman Department, Committee on graduate studies). The manuscript of this thesis was made available to me by Dr. Jamel Akbar, on the faculty of King Faisal University College of Architecture and Planning.

3.0. Weiss, Paul, "The metaphorical process:" "Main Currents in Modern Thought" (Journal of the Center for Integrative Education). 12 Church St. New Rochelle, New York 10805 September-October 1971, Vol. 28, No. 1 Editor: Emily B. Sellon/Patrick Milburn.

Barie Fez-Barringten Is the originator (founder) of “Architecture: the making of metaphors(architecture as the making of metaphors)" First lecture at Yale University in 1967 First published in 1971 in the peer reviewed learned journal:"Main Currents in Modern Thought"; In 1970, founded New York City not-for-profit called Laboratories for Metaphoric Environments (LME) and has been widely published in many international learned journals including Springer publications, MIT, and Syracuse University. The book “Architecture: the making of metaphors" has been published in February 2012 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in New Castle on Tyne,UK..


Researched Publications: Refereed and Peer-reviewed Journals: "monographs":

Barie Fez-Barringten; Associate professor Global University

1. "Architecture the making of metaphors" © Main Currents in Modern Thought/Center for Integrative Education; Sep.-Oct. 1971, Vol. 28 No.1, New Rochelle, New York.

2."Schools and metaphors" Main Currents in Modern Thought/Center for Integrative Education Sep.-Oct. 1971, Vol. 28 No.1, New Rochelle, New York.

3."User's metametaphoric phenomena of architecture and Music": “METU” (Middle East Technical University: Ankara, Turkey): May 1995" Journal of the Faculty of Architecture

4."Metametaphors and Mondrian: Neo-plasticism and its' influences in architecture" 1993 Available on since 2008

5. "The Metametaphor© of architectural education", North Cypress, Turkish University. December, 1997

6."Mosques and metaphors" Unpublished,1993

7."The basis of the metaphor of Arabia" Unpublished, 1994

8."The conditions of Arabia in metaphor" Unpublished, 1994

9. "The metametaphor theorem" Architectural Scientific Journal, Vol. No. 8; 1994 Beirut Arab University.

10. "Arabia’s metaphoric images" Unpublished, 1995

11."The context of Arabia in metaphor" Unpublished, 1995

12. "A partial metaphoric vocabulary of Arabia" “Architecture: University of Technology in Datutop; February 1995 Finland

13."The Aesthetics of the Arab architectural metaphor" “International Journal for Housing Science and its applications” Coral Gables, Florida.1993

14."Multi-dimensional metaphoric thinking" Open House, September 1997: Vol. 22; No. 3, United Kingdom: Newcastle uponTyne

15."Teaching the techniques of making architectural metaphors in the twenty-first century.” Journal of King Abdul Aziz University Engg...Sciences; Jeddah: Code: BAR/223/0615:OCT.2.1421 H. 12TH EDITION; VOL. I and “Transactions” of Cardiff University, UK. April 2010

16. “Word Gram #9” Permafrost: Vol.31 Summer 2009 University of Alaska Fairbanks; ISSN: 0740-7890; page 197

17. "Metaphors and Architecture."© October, MIT

18. “Metaphor as an inference from sign”;© University of Syracuse Journal of Enterprise Architecture; November 2009: and nomnated architect of the year in speical issue of Journal of Enterprise Architecture.Explainging the unique relationship between enterprise and classic building architecture.

19. “Framing the art vs. architecture argument”; Brunel University (West London); BST: Vol. 9 no. 1: Body, Space & Technology Journal: Perspectives Section

20. “Urban Passion”: October 2010; Reconstruction & “Creation”; June 2010; by C. Fez-Barringten;;

21. “An architectural history of metaphors”: ©AI & Society: (Journal of human-centered and machine intelligence) Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Communication: Pub: Springer; London; AI & Society located in University of Brighton, UK; AI & Society. ISSN (Print) 1435-5655 - ISSN (Online) 0951-5666 : Published by Springer-Verlag;; 6 May 2010 Paper copy: AIS Vol. 26.1. Feb. 2011; Online ISSN 1435-5655; Print ISSN 0951-5666; DOI 10.1007/s00146-010-0280-8; : Volume 26, Issue 1 (2011), Page 103.

22. “Does Architecture Create Metaphors?; G.Malek; Cambridge; August 8,2009 Pgs 3-12 (4/24/2010)

23. “Imagery or Imagination”:the role of metaphor in architecture:Ami Ran (based on Architecture:the making of metaphors); :and Illustration:”A Metaphor of Passion”:Architecture oif Israel 82.AI;August2010pgs.83-87.

24. “The soverign built metaphor” © monograph converted to Power Point for presentation to Southwest Florida Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. 2011

25.“Architecture:the making of metaphors”©The Book; Cambridge Scholars Publishing Published: Feb 2012 12 Back Chapman Street Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 2XX United Kingdom Edited by Edward Richard Hart, 0/2 249 Bearsden Road Glasgow G13 1DH UK

Lecture (Illustrated):





Web Site: The aesthetics of the Arab architectural metaphor

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