The Tradition Today: Windcatcher (Malqaf) in Islamic-Arab World -Part 3
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The Tradition Today: Windcatcher (Malqaf) in Islamic-Arab World -Part 3

Architects in the Islamic-Arab world regarded the traditional architecture as prototypes for the contemporary Islamic architecture, which epitomize their national and regional features.

Modern architecture has been concerned with the provision of housing, public buildings and services to a large number of populations. Thus, it introduced new forms of buildings completely different from that of the traditional buildings. These new forms were imported to the Islamic-Arab world from the West together with advanced Western technologies. Architects in the Islamic-Arab world have been deeply distressed by these changes, which may affect the architectural identity of their cities. However, they have searched for forms which can link the contemporary Islamic buildings with the values of traditional architecture.

Architects in the Islamic-Arab world regarded the traditional architecture as prototypes for the contemporary Islamic architecture, which epitomize their national and regional features. The revival of traditional forms’ approach, materials and method of construction was to come, first, through the early work of the late Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy in early 20th century. Through his designs and his writings, Fathy influenced a younger generation of architects in Egypt and worldwide. Fathy’s ideas and philosophy opened opportunities and became a source of inspiration for architects to recognize and appreciate their traditional architecture. Fathy derived low-technology from the use of vernacular forms which have environmental functions such as the courtyard and the windcatcher in traditional Arabic architecture. There are many examples, which exhibit the use of the windcatcher such as the Abdel-Rahman Nassif House (1974), in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia . The design incorporates a revival of a complete climatic system including malqaf, qa’ah (reception area), dur-qã'a (central part of Qa’ah), and wooden lantern.

Reception area with windcatcher, Nassif house, Jeddah, 1974. (Fathy, 1986)

Another expressive example is the University of Qatar which represented a new interpretation to the form of the windcatcher. The building featured number of windcatchers in different levels to catch the prevailing wind. The form of the windcatchers expressed the spirit of its modern time, as well as retained its original function as a generating airflow device in the building. The windcatchers included four open sides covered with perforated geometrical patterns.


 Image credit: Windcatcher, University of Qatar, Doha

Al-Sulaiman Palace, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil, also represents an important example for reviving the windcatcher. The architect replicated the same form of the traditional uni-windcatcher and directed it to the prevailing wind to retain its original function as ventilating device.

Image credit: Al-Sulaiman Palace, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil

The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Iran, known as the sculpture park, was designed by the architect Kamran Diba. The museum represents a contemporary example of Iranian architecture, where the architect was successful in integrating both traditional Iranian architecture and modern architecture. The museum featured traditional architectural elements, which metaphorically referred to windcatchers in form but functionally they work as skylights above the atrium inside the building.


Image credit: The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Iran


  1. Hassan Fathy, Natural Energy and Vernacular Architecture: Principles and Examples with Reference to Hot Arid Climates. Chicago, 1986.
  2. Main picture:

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Comments (19)

Thoroughly enjoying this series, my friend! Right up an old anthropologist's alley!

Nicely illustrated article.Thanks

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Fascinating modern examples of this traditional technology, and as always a superb article.

A great series.

Good Job - Shared

Thank you everyone for your kind and valued comments. much appreciated

I think I begin to like Arabic architecture. It is beautiful and functional at the same time.

Ranked #11 in Architecture

Beautiful architecture in a well presented writing as usual Sir.

Ranked #10 in Architecture

A dynamic way of chanelling wind without machinery through architecture.

Thanks everyone for your kind comments. appreciate

good job, thanks, voted

well done my friends

Thank you tamrh and carol for your time reading the article. much appreciated

Another great job here.

Thanks Jill for reading and kindly commenting

Outstanding work! You have such a talent for putting together quality articles. Thanks for sharing another great piece...voted

Thanks Donata L. for your time reading and thoughtfully commenting. much appreciated

Excellent article. Voted up. : )

Thanks Bethany for your kind comment