Islamic architecture encompasses a wide range of architectural styles and building types that developed in regions where Islam was the dominant religion and culture. The lands conquered by them created an influence of Roman, Byzantine, Iranian, Mesopotamian, Chinese, and Indian architecture as Islam spread around the world. It consists of structures built between the 7th century, when the Islamic faith first emerged, and the present day.

Islamic architecture has had a significant influence on architectural styles around the world, particularly in the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Asia and Europe. Additionally, Islamic architecture has also influenced the development of Gothic architecture in Europe.

Important building types in Islamic architecture:

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Mosques_ (n.d.). Jama Masjid – New Delhi_

Mosques: Mosques are one of the most important building types in Islamic architecture. They are used for Islamic congregational prayer and typically include a prayer hall, a courtyard, and a minaret for the call to prayer.

Madrasas: Madrasas are Islamic schools, which have traditionally been important centers for the study of Islamic law, theology, and the sciences. They often include a courtyard, lecture halls, and student dormitories.

Palaces: Palaces were often built by Islamic rulers as a symbol of their power and prestige, and typically include grand reception halls, private quarters, and gardens.

Caravanserais: Caravanserais are inns built along trade routes to provide accommodation and protection for merchants and their goods. They often include a courtyard, stables, and a mosque.

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Tomb_ Fine Art America. (n.d.). Islamic architecture tomb in Lodhi garden against dramatic sunset located in New Delhi, India by Arpan Bhatia_

Tombs and mausoleums: Tombs and mausoleums are important building types in Islamic architecture, as they are used to honor and commemorate important figures in Islamic history. They often include a dome, a prayer room, and a courtyard.

Hammams (Baths): Hammams are public baths that have been a traditional part of Islamic architecture for centuries. They are often found in cities and towns and have a distinct architectural style with multiple rooms for different functions, such as washing, sauna, and relaxing.

Fortifications: Fortifications, such as city walls, gates, and towers, are also an important building type in Islamic architecture, as they were often used to protect cities and towns from invaders and to mark the entry points or barricades.

Islamic architecture is characterized by several distinct features:

Geometric patterns: Islamic architecture is known for its use of intricate geometric patterns, which are seen in tilework, stucco, and woodwork. These patterns are based on mathematical principles and are intended to create a sense of harmony and balance.

Arabesque decorations: The ornamental designs that incorporate interlacing patterns of foliage and calligraphy. These decorations are often used to cover the surfaces of buildings.

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Calligraphy_ (2014). Arabic Calligraphy – Taking A Closer Look — Smashing Magazine. [online] Smashing Magazine_
Use of calligraphy: Calligraphy, or the art of beautiful handwriting, is an important aspect of Islamic architecture. Calligraphic inscriptions can be found on the walls and portals of buildings, and are often used to decorate the interiors of mosques and give messages to the public.

Dome and arches: They are used to create a sense of grandeur and spaciousness. Domes can be found on the roof of buildings, while arches are often used to create portals and entranceways. Domes created grand and impressive spaces and were often decorated with intricate geometric patterns and colorful tilework. The use of multiple domes, arranged in a repeating pattern, became a common feature in Islamic architecture.

Minarets: Minarets are tall, slender towers that are typically found next to mosques. They are used for the call to prayer and often serve as a visual marker for the presence of a mosque in a neighborhood or town.

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Courtyards_ (n.d.). HD wallpaper: seville, spain, alcazar, islamic architecture, courtyard, built structure | Wallpaper Flare. _

Courtyards and gardens: Islamic architecture also often includes courtyards and gardens with water bodies as part of the design, which provides a sense of tranquility and serenity. The courtyard, is a central feature in many traditional Islamic buildings and homes. It served as a focal point of the building, providing a space for socializing, relaxation, and access to natural light and ventilation. Courtyards were often surrounded by covered walkways or arcades, which were known as iwans.

These elements created a harmonious balance between indoor and outdoor spaces, providing both functionality and aesthetic beauty.

Influence of Islamic Architecture:

Contemporary Islamic architecture often aims to reflect and express the cultural identity of the Islamic community. This can include the use of traditional motifs and symbols, as well as the incorporation of local materials and architectural styles.

Islamic architects were among the first to use pointed arches and ribbed vaults in their constructions, for example, which later became key elements of Gothic architecture in Europe. Traditional Islamic architectural principles, such as the use of courtyards and gardens, and the incorporation of passive solar design, have been adapted in modern sustainable design practices.

Islamic architecture reflects the culture, beliefs, and values of Islamic societies, and provides insight into their history and way of life.


Netra is an architecture graduate who is passionate about all things design, loves to observe how spaces unfold while creating memories and enjoys putting thoughts into words with a design perspective.