Sunday, August 9, 2009

Alcazares Reales de Sevilla, Spain

The Alcazar was originally a Moorish fort (10th century) and was later (14th century) extensively rebuilt in the Mudejar style for the Christian King Pedro I.

The Alcazar in Sevilla is one of the greatest surviving examples of the Mudejar style architecture, which is a combination of Moorish and Western style design and construction that was the result of the Moorish & Christian cultures living side by side at the time in Spain. This style did not create new forms or structure, but was a reinterpretation of Western culture through Islamic influences.

One of the obvious differences from the Moorish architecture of the Alhambra is the use of figures (such as animals, people and buildings) in the decoration. Moorish (and Islamic) architecture avoids all imagery, having only a dominant geometrical character, along with complicated tiling patterns and stylized arabic script which is basically a visual chant of verses from the Quran.

Patio de las Doncellas (above)

Every surface was adorned with decoration: walls, ceiling, doors, columns, floors...
As in the Moorish architecture of the Alhambra, the Alcazar's plan was geometrical - squares & rectangles with central open courtyards or a circular dome above. The same geometry is repeated in the tiling and carvings on the surfaces. Both the Alhambra and the Alcazar were some of my favorites because of the simple forms that were used to create spaces of richness and clarity. While the entire space was full of ornamentation/patterns, it never felt overwhelming because it was so consistent to the originating idea/shapes.
I also loved the creation of a microclimate in these hot environs: a design for creating coolness through the use of water, plants, thick walls and darkness.

To better see the details in (any of) the photos, click on it once & it will show full size.

This was the gothic addition to the palace, where the tiling on the lower half of the wall incorporated figures, animals and people. You can see how the pattern made by the arches in the ceiling have no relationship to the pattern in the tiling on the walls, which in turn have no relationship to the floor pattern. This is when the I find ornamentation to be distracting and unenjoyable - as the professors in studio would say, "it looks like 3 different people designed this!"

The gardens. The wall surrounding the garden is occupiable. There is a narrow collonaded corridor that allows views on both sides and leads to a larger space for sitting and observing the garden. The colors of the purple blooming tree on the outside of the wall was beautiful next to the highly textured wall (not mudejar).

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