An Architectural Element: MashrabiyaDemet Taşkan, Alzahraa Behzad Ismaeel
Certain terms of Arabic and Persian origin employed in Islamic art and architecture are used with different meanings in Turkish. “Mashrabiya” is one of those terms. While mashrabiya originated from and was applied in Islamic geography and is the name of an architectural element, it is rather known as a kind of woodworking technique in Turkish Art History literature. This technique is called hart (خرط) in Arabic. The Turkish equivalence of the Arabic word hart is torna. In English, this technique is called lathe. Mashrabiya, on the other hand, is known as an architectural element in all Western sources and has several different definitions. None of those definitions refers to a woodworking technique. This study aims to offer detailed information about the origin and characteristics of mashrabiya, an architectural element, as well as its place in Islamic art, the period when it made its way into the Art History literature and its use and development in Islamic art. The study also aims to contribute to the art history literature by providing information on the hart technique, which has lots of applied examples in the Turkish art despite not being referred to in our literature as a word, and by offering a Turkish contribution to this technique, which has been named the mashrabiya technique in our literature.
Mimari Bir Eleman: MaşrabiyeDemet Taşkan, Alzahraa Behzad Ismaeel
İslam sanatı ve mimarisinde kullanılan Arapça ve Farsça kökenli bazı terimlerin Türkçede farklı anlamlarda kullanıldığı görülmektedir. “Maşrabiye” kelimesi de bu terimlerden birisidir. İslam coğrafyasında ortaya çıkmış ve uygulanmış olan maşrabiye aslında mimari bir ögenin adıyken Türk Sanat Tarihi literatüründe bir çeşit ahşap tekniği olarak bilinmektedir. Bu tekniğin adı Arapçada hart (خرط) olarak bilinmektedir. Arapça bir kelime olan hart sözcüğünün Türkçedeki karşılığı tornadır. İngilizce ise bu teknik lathe (torna) olarak geçmektedir. Maşrabiye, tüm Batı kökenli kaynaklarda mimari bir eleman olarak bilinmekte ve birkaç farklı tanımı bulunmaktadır. Bu tanımlardan hiçbirinde maşrabiyenin bir ahşap tekniği olduğundan söz edilmemektedir. Bu çalışmanın amacı, mimari bir eleman olan maşrabiyenin kökeni, özellikleri, İslam sanatındaki yeri, Sanat Tarihi literatürüne ne zaman girdiği ayrıca İslam sanatında kullanımı ve gelişimi hakkında detaylı bilgi sunmaktır. Bunun yanında kelime olarak terminolojimizde yer almayan ancak Türk sanatında uygulanmış eserlerin oldukça fazla olduğu “hart tekniği” hakkında bilgi vererek literatürümüze “maşrabiye tekniği” olarak geçmiş bu tekniğe Türkçe bir karşılık sunarak sanat tarihi terminolojisine katkı sağlamaktır.
While mashrabiya, the main subject of this study, is known as an architectural element in Egypt, it has made its way into our terminology as a woodworking technique. This study focuses on the definition and origin of ‘mashrabiya’ as well as intended uses, the materials and techniques used for application according to the Islamic geography and Western resources. Although the main subject of the study is mashrabiya, we also want to mention how the technique we know as mashrabiya is called ‘hart’ in Egypt since it entered our terminology as a woodworking technique. In this context, we have identified the subject of our study. We have comprehensively explained the origin and intended uses of this technique known as the ‘Hart’ technique in Egypt as well.
In Egypt, mashrabiya is an architectural element designed with the lattice technique and the technique called ‘Hart’ is mostly used in this element. This technique is the same as the technique going into our language as “mashrabiya” technique. Hart is an Arabic word. Its Turkish equivalent is ‘lathe’. While there are many studies on ‘mashrabiya’ in Islamic Art, there is no direct study on mashrabiya in the Turkish Art History literature. Some studies list it among woodworking techniques. Our main purpose for conducting such a study is to give information about ‘mashrabiya’ that is wrongly transferred to our terminology and the ‘hart’ technique not included in our terminology. Besides, the study also aims to introduce into our terminology the Turkish equivalent of the technique called ‘hart’ in Egypt and ‘mashrabiya’ in our country.
Mashrabiya is formed as a lattice usually surrounding windows and balconies on the second or higher floors. There are three main definitions for mashrabiya, which is defined in various ways. Its first definition is “a wooden lattice or folding screen designed through lathe or carving and surrounding the balcony in Islamic countries”. Secondly, it is defined as “a kind of folding screen used for various purposes”. Thirdly, it is defined as “a balcony with machicolation and parapet placed over the door to protect the entrance.”
Mashrabiyas have five main functions. They regulate light, temperature, humidity, and airflow and ensure privacy. Although its main material is wood, there are examples of mashrabiya constructed with marble, stone, plaster and brick. Particularly used in hot climate conditions and Islamic geography, mashrabiya is called “mashrabiya” in Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Sudan, Australia, and Peru; “roshan” in Gulf Arabic Countries and Iran; “şanşol” or “şanaşil” in Iraq; “jali” in India, Pakistan, and Bhutan; “aggasi” in Bahrein; “takrima” in Yemen; “mushabek” in Iran; “barmaklı” in Maghreb countries and “cumba” in Turkey. The similarity between the definitions of cumba and mashrabiya proves that these two words are used in different cultures to define the same element.
The Hart (Lathe) Technique is a technique that is mostly used in mashrabiyas. Apart from mashrabiyas, they were also used for minbars, mukabariyahs, doors, the parapets separating the section of women in mosques and the folding screens made of wood around the sarcophaguses in turbahs. The Turkish equivalent of the word is “torna”.
An overall evaluation shows that the primary intended use for mashrabiyas must be to create an air-conditioning effect in inner spaces under hot climate conditions. However, the same architectural element was developed over time and used for various purposes. Based on the first examples of mashrabiya making the spaces cooler by creating an air-conditioning effect, it can be argued that these examples were designed in smaller sizes. In later periods, we see the examples of mashrabiya designed in larger sizes and called ‘cumba’ in Turkish architecture to illuminate the spaces and ensure privacy within the house in addition to its existing functions. An analysis of mashrabiya types implies that it was given the same name in ‘straight mashrabiyas’ as well as the lattice folding screens separating two sections in the subsequent years.
The Turkish equivalent for the mashrabiya used particularly under hot climate conditions and in the Islamic geography was referred to as ‘cumba’ in various studies. Named differently in each Islamic country, it is found that this architectural element is named differently even within the same country. Considering the dictionary meanings of ‘cumba’ and ‘şahnişin’ in our language, we see that they are quite similar. In the evidence of nearly the same definitions for ‘cumba’ in dictionaries with that of ‘mashrabiya’, we can argue that the Turkish equivalent for mashrabiya is cumba. We believe that the first examples of cumba during the reign of the Ottoman Empire were covered with latticework as in mashrabiyas. However, Western style cumbas called ‘oriel windows’ present in European architecture were introduced into Turkish architecture as a result of westernization. Thus, it can be argued that the latticework was removed from cumbas and replaced by windows.
The study attempts to identify the period during which the words ‘mashrabiya’, ‘cumba’, ‘şahnişin’ and ‘revzen’ made their way into Turkish by scanning dictionaries. Data obtained through dictionaries shows that the words ‘şahnişin’ and ‘cumba’ were introduced to our language in the 17th and 19th centuries, respectively. It is not clear when the term ‘mashrabiya’ became a part of our terminology. Considering that this term is not present in any of the dictionaries, we can argue that mashrabiya has entered our language recently. Transferred to our terminology from different languages during different periods, ‘cumba’, ‘şahnişin’ and ‘mashrabiya’ are the different names of the same architectural element. Introduced to our terminology more recently, ‘mashrabiya’ is known as a woodworking technique rather than an architectural element. However, mashrabiyas were designed with the lattice technique and the ‘lathe’ technique known as ‘hart’ in Egypt is the most common technique for constructing mashrabiyas. Therefore, the technique should have been called ‘mashrabiya’ in our country.
Consequently, the Turkish equivalent for the word ‘hart’ is torna (lathe) in Turkish. It is reasonable that the technique called ‘mashrabiya technique’ in our terminology is named as ‘torna (lathe) technique’ or ‘lattice technique designed with lathe’.