The architecture of the mosque is different from region to another according to the differentiation in climate, culture, and tradition of each area. These differences created number of different mosque architectural styles, although they are well unified by common architectural features.
From the 8th to 14th centuries, the architecture of the mosque witnessed a remarkable development in its interior plan as well as its exterior form, which is characterized by highly distinctive features. The architecture of the mosque is different from region to another according to the differentiation in climate, culture, and tradition of each area. These differences created number of different mosque architectural styles, although they are well unified by common architectural features. The analysis of the architecture of the mosque in different parts of the world shows that there are about five basic categories of mosque architecture.
The basic categories of mosque design. 1. The hypostyle hall and open courtyard.
2. The bi-axial four-iwan. (recess or niche in the wall)
3. The triple domes and a courtyard.
4. The massive central dome.
5. The detached pavilions within a walled garden enclosure.
1. The hypostyle hall and open courtyard.
The plan of this type of mosques is very important because it follows the same plan of the mosque of the Prophet Mohamed (pbuh). It consists of a courtyard surrounded on three sides by porticoes. The main prayer hall (hypostyle hall) occupies the fourth side and its design usually has a central aisle covered by a cupola to highlight the importance of the space. The hall is also consisting of one or more transverse aisles, which are emphasized by arcades parallel to the mihrab wall (A mihrab is usually a niche in the middle of the wall, which indicates the direction of Mecca in Saudi Arabia). Examples of this style can be found in Arabia, North Africa and Spain. The Great Mosque, Damascus (709-715), and Al-Azhar Mosque, Mosque, 10th century, Cairo represent good examples for this type.
The Great Mosque, Damascus (709-715) , Umayyad
Details of the Great Mosque plan
2. The bi-axial four-iwan
The plan of this type of mosque architecture usually consists of a rectangular courtyard surrounded by arcades on four sides. In the middle of each side of the courtyard there is one large iwan. The iwan is generally a high semicircular vaulted-recess, closed on three sides and the fourth side is opened towards the courtyard. The main prayer hall occupies one of these iwans according to the direction of the qibla (direction to Mecca). This style can be traced in Iran and Central Asia and a good example is the Shah Mosque, 1628-1629, Iran.
Shah Mosque, 17th, Isfahan, Iran, Safavid
Plan of the Shah Mosque, 17th, Isfahan, Iran, Safavid
3. The Triple Domes and an Extensive Courtyard
This type of mosque architecture is always characterized by its monumental scale. The façade is usually framed by two minarets, and the prayer hall is dominated by three outstanding bulbous domes. This type can be found in the Indian subcontinent and representative example is the Badshaahi Mosque, 17th, Lahore, Pakistan.
Triple domes, Lahore Fort Complex: Badshaahi Mosque, 17th, Lahore, Pakistan, Mughal
4. THE MASSIVE CENTRAL DOME
The site plan of this type of mosques usually comprises a courtyard surrounded on four sides by colonnades with the mosque in the middle. The plan of the mosque usually consists of the main hall, which is covered by a great central dome with two half-cupolas of the same diameter serving it as counterweight. The harmonious structure of the mosque constitutes a pyramidal cascade of smaller domes around the big central cupola. This type of mosque can be found in Anatolia (Turkey). One of the best example of this type is, the Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul built in 1550 by the imperial architect Sinan.
Massive dome, Süleymaniye Complex, 16th, Istanbul, Turkey, Ottoman
Courtyard, Süleymaniye Complex, 16th, Istanbul, Turkey, Ottoman
5. THE DETACHED PAVILIONS WITHIN A WALLED GARDEN ENCLOSURE
The most representative example of this type of mosque architecture is the Great Mosque of Xian, 1392, China, which is the largest and best-preserved early mosque in China. The layout is typical of Chinese courtyard planning, with four courtyards placed in a series along a central axis, and two entrances face north and south. Each successive courtyard has its centre of attraction, either a pavilion, or a screen wall, which were designed to complement the surroundings. The first courtyard contains an elaborate wooden arch, while a stone arch stands in the center of the second courtyard. At the entrance to the third courtyard is a hall and in the middle lies the Minaret. The Prayer Hall (Phoenix) is placed in the fourth courtyard.
Plan of the Great Mosque of Xian, 14th century, Xian, China
The minaret in the third courtyard
The prayer hall in the fourth court
1. Frishman, Martin, and Hassan-Uddin Khan, The Mosque. London, 1994.
2. Holod, Renata and Hassan-Uddin Khan, The Mosque and The Modern World: Architects, Patrons and Design Since The 1950s. London, 1997.
3. Serageldin, Ismail, and James Steele, Architecture of The Contemporary Mosque. London, 1996.