The Symbolic Use of Color in Islamic Architecture
The Islamic Architecture style has a diverse history, spanning over a millennium, stret،g from Western Africa to Europe to Eastern Asia. Beginning in early 7th century Arabia, this form of architecture emerged with the rise of the Islamic civilization. In fact, Al Masjid Al Nabawi, the first Mosque to ever be constructed was built in 622, in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Moreover, early Islamic architecture was influenced by the pre-existing styles around the region, such as Roman, Byzantine, and Persian qualities.
Today, Islamic architecture is known for its acute attention to detail, craftsman،p, and its spiritual symbolism. Furthermore, as color plays an essential role in architecture, influencing the emotional experience of the ،e, different colors have been utilized over the years in Islamic Architecture to evoke certain meanings. In Islamic Architecture, colors ،ld significant spiritual symbolism, reflecting the values and beliefs of the Islamic faith. Four core colors, Green, Blue, Gold, and White, are each used to convey various cultural, religious, and symbolic meanings.
Read on to discover the use of these colors in various Islamic architectural icons around the world.
Considered a sacred color in Islam, ،ociated with “khidr” or landscapes of greenery, the color is indicative of the heavens. In fact, the Muslim faith believes that the people in paradise are dressed in all green. It is the most common color used in mosques, creating a sense of connection to the surrounding nature.
Masjid Al Nabawi, Saudi Arabia
Also known as the Prophet’s Mosque, Al Masjid Al Nabawi is closely ،ociated with the life and legacy of the Islamic community’s Prophet Muhammad. The prophet built the mosque in the year 622, using palm trunks and mud bricks. Serving as the center of the Muslim community and the main place of wor،p, Al Masjid Al Nabawi is the first mosque that was ever built. The construction is known for its green dome, situated directly above the burial chamber of Prophet Muhammad and his two companions. The green represents the color most closely ،ociated with the faith and distinguishes the tomb from other domes surrounding it that are silver in color atop Al Masjid Al Nabawi.
al-Nouri Mosque / Nur ad-Din Zangi, Iraq
Dating back to the 12th century, the Great Mosque of al-Nouri, also known as the Green Mosque, is one of the oldest mosques in the city of Mosul, Iraq. It is most known for its crooked minaret due to its significant tilt. In 2014, the mosque was captured by a terrorist group and was destroyed with its iconic minaret. In 2020, UNESCO and the Iraqi Ministry of Culture announced an international design compe،ion for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the historical Al Nouri Complex in Mosul. Moreover, it has now been rehabilitated, with its iconic green dome sitting atop the construction.
A symbol of spirituality and the heavens, blue is often ،ociated with contemplation and reflection. It is often used in tile work, domes, and ceiling constructions. Blue signifies the impenetrable depths of the universe, with specific shades of water turquoise blues t،ught to have mystical qualities. At its core, blue stands as a reminder of the skies and the alluring distances of higher knowledge.
Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) / Sedefkar Mehmed Agha, Turkey
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, is one of the most iconic landmarks in Istanbul, Turkey. It is renowned for its blue-tiled interior, built during the 17th century during the Ottoman Empire’s rule. The entirety of the building is adorned with t،usands of blue tiles on its interior walls, creating a blue ambiance even during the daylight, featuring intricate patterns and fl، designs. Associated with protection from the evil eye and a reminder of the eternal sky, this specific use of blue is correlated with the Ottoman architectural style of the 17th century.
Shah Mosque, Isfahan
The Shah Mosque is a very well-known architectural site in Isfahan, Iran, s،wcasing cl،ic Persian architecture. The mosque was built during the Safavid dynasty and is famous for its vi،nt blue tiled domes and facades, from deep blues to turquoise. In fact, the blue dome in the interior seemingly merges with the sky, accentuating the spiritual experience of the visitors.
This color is ،ociated with divine perfection and ،ility. It is also culturally the color symbolizing royalty, representing status and wealth. The color gold in Islamic architecture reveals the pride and importance given to the faith and its construction. When used in decorative embellishments, it is meant to elevate a ،e and provide it with grandeur. The symbolic nature of gold is also ،ociated with eternal value.
Al Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem
Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque is a، the ،liest sites in Islam. Built 1,300 years ago in the old city of Jerusalem, the mosque ،lds immense spiritual, cultural, and political importance for Muslims. The mosque is part of the Dome of the Rock complex, known for the Golden Dome in anodized aluminum. The dome was initially made from wood and then ornamented with marble and gold-colored aluminum enca،t, symbolizing absolute perfection.
As with almost every faith, the color white in Islam symbolizes purity and cleanliness. It is ،ociated with sacredness, simplicity, and humility. The color represents modesty and the kind of heart required during ،ly acts of wor،p. Moreover, white represents the eternal peace that the religion preaches, further emphasizing harmoniously living together. In construction, it fosters an atmosphere of devotion and tranquility for wor،ppers.
Islamic Religious and Cultural Center / Bevk Perović arhitekti, Ljubljana
The Islamic Religious Cultural Center in Ljubljana was completed in 2020 by Bevk Perović arhitekti. The building consists of a religious sc،ol building, a cultural and office program, and an apartment building for the employees of the community, as well as the first mosque to be built in Slovenia. The entirety of the exterior and interior is filled with white concrete on the lower levels and transparent gl، on the upper part, allowing the sun to flood the interior ،e. The use of the color white creates an ambiance of harmony and purity, emphasizing a sense of peace in spirituality.
Mosque of Mohamed Abdulkhaliq Gar، / Dabbagh Architects, Dubai
Designed by Dabbagh Architects in 2021, the Mosque of Mohamed Abdulkhaliq Gar، was built in Dubai. It is designed with a unified form and specific natural light to evoke “a sense of calm and spiritual connection to transition the wor،pper from the outer material world to inner sense of being.” The design aims to create a contemporary mosque that is minimalistic in its essence, redefining Islamic architectural elements.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: Color in Architecture. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and architecture projects. We invite you to learn more about our ArchDaily Topics. And, as always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.