The Influence of the Alhambra

I am typically fascinated by water. Therefore as a designer you can imagine that every design I create will have an element of water in it.  So, when it came time to decide where I was going to go on a trip over the Christmas break to discover more gardens I decided no better place then the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. In the Alhambra you can witness how the Moors designed a castle where water practically guides you through their palaces and courtyards.

Alhambra means “Red Palace” in Arabic. It was named this because it was built from large red bricks made of the red clay and gravel found on the side of the mountain of which it sits at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

alhambra granada spain

The first Arabic dynasty was established here in 711 AD after they made their way from Northern Africa into Europe, however the Nasarite Moors held Granada and built most of the Alhambra from 1241 until 1491.  It was this time that the Palacio Nazaries were built (three spectacular palaces in one) by Mohammed 1. It is regarded as the most influential piece of Islamic architecture in Europe. For century’s now artists, writers, designers and architects have come to the Alhambra to immerse themselves in the geometric form of Islamic design and discover how culturally advanced this little city was.

Throughout you will find an unprecedented amount of detail carved into the doors, on the walls, ceilings and archways. Most of these carvings are symbolic messages from the Qur’an and dedications to their god Allah.  In fact the Moors believed that imperfections were imposed in this world and on human beings as part of the beautiful design of Allah. This is why each of the rooms in the Alhambra are designed with a small imperfection on purpose, but apparently the Spanish say that you would be hard pressed to find one of them as it’s built with almost perfect symmetry throughout.

Migrating from one of the most water deprived parts of the world the Moors were the masters of designing with water.  It can be found throughout bubbling up in shallow pools, running in narrow rills from one room to the next and trickling down fountain faces. Water was used not only for irrigation of their crops and temperature control inside their courtyards; it also carried a spiritual element to it. They believed the reflection in water represented a link between this world and the heavens above.

Design has come so far since the days that the Alhambra was built as these days so much of what is built is done with C.A.D. programs but you don’t have to look very hard to recognize the systems that they applied to their designs; rules that have been passed on for centuries now.  After reflecting on my experience inside the Alhambra I have grown a new found respect and admiration for geometric design, as I’ve never seen it used the way that they have it on display at the Alhambra.

All images Wikipedia CC.