Access Granted: The Phenomenology of Approach in Early Islamic Palatial Architecture
journal article
Early Islamic palatial architecture displays certain identifiable and formalized characteristics that have been extensively discussed for decades now, and scholarship is gradually moving towards a coherent understanding of the intrinsic principles behind their conceptualization. One of the central principles in early Islamic palaces was the use of an axial approach as a structuring architectural principle. This axis was subdivided by physical demarcations that indicated increases in a given space’s social and symbolic importance. The assignment of value to space was based on proximity to the patron, and the architecture is designed to manifest this spatial hierarchy. This article explores the origin of this tradition by analysing the application and development of transitional devices in the late Umayyad palaces of Amman Citadel and Mshatta. By considering spatial composition as a subtle yet powerful means of stimulating a cognitive recognition of social hierarchies, and the movement between them, a number of pre-Islamic complexes are gauged as possible sources of inspiration for the early Muslim patrons. This includes the identification of certain features and concepts that not only are suggested to be common, deliberate and meaningful, but indeed are key to understanding how the late Umayyad rulers formulated a sustainable materiality of Islamic rule.

Keywords: Islam; Umayyads; approach; monarchy; palaces; royal cities
Damgaard, Kristoffer. "Access Granted: The Phenomenology of Approach in Early Islamic Palatial Architecture." In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 2, Number 2 (pp. 273-305), edited by Mohammad Gharipour, Bristol: Intellect, 2013.
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