The series of lectures by The Great Courses Plus about the History of the Islamic Golden Age is very informative. This 24 lecture series covers every aspect of the Abbasid Empire and throws light upon significant aspects, achievements, and contributions to humankind. The course has all the details about historic events that led to the Golden Age and how it is one of the most flourished empires of the world. Let us try to cover the key points about the Abbasid Empire and what the designer can be taken away from this course.

Islamic civilization is one of the oldest civilizations in the history of mankind. Islam originated with the birth of Prophet Muhammad at the starting of the 7th Century A.D. There have been many sects of Islam with changing Era. Among the Chronological events in the History of Islam, one of the most prominent known periods was the Islamic Golden Age. The rulers of this Golden Age were the Abbasids who ruled from the 7th century till the 13th century A.D. This Empire stretched from the Indus River to the Atlantic and was the largest empire at one time in the entire world. 

The Abbasid Empire shifted to Iraq after defeating the Umayyads, the rulers of Iraq then and thus the journey of the Golden Age began in the 7th century A.D. The Caliphs of the Abbasid Empire abolished the prevailing unbiased laws and recognized all the sects of Muslims as equal with no discrimination. Their way of ruling was different from the Persians and Arabs and was based on centralizing power, government, and administration. 

The rulers of the Abbasid Empire were very progressive in their nature and were always eager to learn new things. This thought process and urge for knowledge made them one of the greatest Islamic ruler’s worlds has seen with its major and significant contribution to the world.

The Abbasid Empire constructed the new capital ‘Baghdad’ on the bank of river Tigris and was named Madina As-Salam which was founded by Caliph Al-Mansur in 762 A.D. The city of Baghdad was circular in form with radial planning, concentric rings, and fortified walls. There were 4 gates at the major axial point heading towards the city. 

The central part had government buildings and the concentric rings had various living districts. Their Architecture style Byzantine and Saracenic Architecture impressions. The Royal palace complex was very grand and constructed with bricks. The Architecture elements of the royal palace had pointed arches with courtyards having fountains to control the harsh weather. 

Youtube for Architects: History of the Islamic Golden Age | Religion, Science, & Culture in the Abbasid Empire by The Great Courses Plus - Sheet1
The city of Baghdad © gettyimages
Youtube for Architects: History of the Islamic Golden Age | Religion, Science, & Culture in the Abbasid Empire by The Great Courses Plus - Sheet2
The Royal Palace at Baghdad © gettyimages

The Abbasid Empire had 2 capitals and was known for many mosques constructions. They used many types of building elements like bricks, mud, and even sandstone. They knew the techniques to experiment with materials and it is evident in their structures. The buildings were ornamented by stucco and also had many beautiful motifs. They also constructed minarets for the public announcements called Azan. 

The course explains how the Abbasid constructions influence the Revival of Gothic Architecture in Europe. One should go through the series to understand how important this Golden Age was and also to understand the relevance of the events happening in other parts of the world at that same time.

Youtube for Architects: History of the Islamic Golden Age | Religion, Science, & Culture in the Abbasid Empire by The Great Courses Plus - Sheet3
The Minaret at Mosque in Samarra © gettyimages
The Geometric pattern with motifs on brick wall © gettyimages

The most important takeaway for the designers is the exploration and experiment that should be an integral part of the design. This helps in shaping different options and also in understanding the behavior of design with changing materials and elements. I would suggest people apart from history lovers also check with the lectures to gain much-needed insight about how advanced this Empire was, and this needs to be understood in today’s time also.

References

Srushti Tiwari
Author

Srushti Tiwari is the Principal Architect for Chaukhat Designs, Nagpur. She is also a faculty at Institute of Design Education and Architectural Studies (IDEAS), Nagpur. She is keen about research based works and likes to explore the culture and community. She is also associated with Studio Sakha as an Associate Architect. She believes working with different types of people help you grow and hence is constantly engaged in some or the other collaborative works related or co-related to Architectural Field.

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