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By Jonathan G. Katz (Editor)

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Extra info for Architecture as Symbol and Self-Identity

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Serageldin Most of the discussion of signs and symbols seems to revolve around the mosques. I feel I have not quite caught on how these signs and symbols may be transferred to the other types of structures that dominate the Islamic built environment in its totality. You cannot limit the formation of a symbol to an inscription on a form, its support. There is still a third element which is man, the living user. If you take away man, there will be nothing. We can always put inscriptions on the pillar of a mosque or on the door of a house, but without man there will be no symbol.

R. :r:8 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ X X X X X X X X 7d 7 12 9 16 7-17 12b 9-18 9 13-14 12 14 12-13 lOb 17 9-15 Converted from church Converted to church c Roman structure converted first to church, then mosque d Pre-Islamic Arabian a b 24 The Visual Language of Symbolic Form: A Preliminary Study of Mosque Architecture A •• •• •• •• •• •• A j .... D. An early hypostyle mosque After K. A. C. - .................... l u. - . Kairouan, Tunisia: plan of Great Mosque. A hypostyle mosque incorporating dome over mi~rab 25 The Visual Language of Symbolic Form: A Preliminary Study of Mosque Architecture Dome over miJ:lriib space of Great Mosque of Kairouan Photo: S.

How would we talk about symbols if we distinguished between Arabic and Persian frames of reference? This is a fundamental question. As a working hypothesis, let us say that in Islamic thought there are two directions with regard to reading the Koranic text. The Shi'ite direction has developed a certain symbolism, such as the space of the town and the Muslim house. This symbolism is introverted because it has developed as a kind of interior life, an interior vision which can only be transmitted to the exterior through the initiation of mystics and gnostics.

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