Millennium masterwork: The Alhambra

For nearly a quarter of a millennium, an uneasy pause in the endless Mediterranean struggle between Islam and Christianity allowed an exotic architectural flowering on the hillsides of Granada. The region of Andalucia in southern Spain is rich in Moorish architecture, but the palace of the Alhambra outshines them all.

It is a miracle of the finest Islamic art, where architecture Children’s of supreme delicacy combines with brilliant engineering to create an alternative world of cool stately rooms, colonnades and water-gurgling courtyards amid the searing heat of the region. Such architecture is often described as a consciously poetic attempt to create Paradise, as described in some detail in the Koran. True: but the Moorish builders were also highly proficient at a technical level. They knew exactly how to moderate the temperature by a combination of airflow, movement of water, and wholesale nfl jerseys shade, but their triumph was to ensure that their science and their art 如何在Linux下搭建VPN服务器(CentOS、pptp) were inseparable. Between 1248, when Ibn Ahmar sponsoractie established Granada as an independent kingdom, and 1492, wholesale nba jerseys when his Nasrid dynasty finally yielded to the Christian forces of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Alhambra developed as a palace of serene sophistication.

Its name, prosaically, means “the red place” after the colour of the stucco and the local soil. What we see today is tantalising because there was once much more: this was a complete walled city, a capital and seat of government and mosque as well as a royal residence. But the key parts of the palace have survived the insensitive later Renaissance alterations of Charles V, subsequent decline and neglect, severe bouts of vandalism inflicted in 1812 by the armies of Napoleon, an earthquake in 1821, and even the dawn-to-dusk villa hordes that mass tourism has brought in recent years. It is ironic that the most celebrated and evocative part of the complex, the Casa Real or Royal Palace, was not built to last, being cheaply built of common passionnante materials, but lavishly decorated inside. Successive rulers were meant to rebuild it to their own tastes: the last to do so was Muhammad V in the late 14th century.

Its impact is heightened by the drama of its setting high on a hill, which makes the approach, along narrow woodland paths, feel appropriately enough like a passage from one world to another. Within the complex, the courtyards function as great rooms open to the wholesale jerseys sky, while the buildings are layered, permeable, the boundaries between inside and outside, light and dark, blurred and ever-changing. Finest, intricately-carved marble and wood is contrasted with basic stucco.

Its impact is heightened by the drama of its setting high on a hill, which makes the wholesale nfl jerseys approach, along narrow Architecture woodland paths, feel appropriately enough like a passage from one world to another. Within the complex, the courtyards function as great rooms open to the sky, while the buildings are layered, permeable, the boundaries between inside and outside, light and dark, blurred and ever-changing. Finest, intricately-carved marble and wood is contrasted with basic stucco.

The two great courtyards – the Court of the Myrtles with its long pool and the Court of the Lions with its fountain supported on twelve of the marble beasts – are of very different characters, one public, one more intimate, though each plays subtle games with notions of symmetry and axis. Inside, the marvel is the virtuosity of the carved decoration, especially in the Hall of the Two Sisters where it bursts into a prismatic explosion like a cave of crystalline stalactites. Awed silence is the only proper reaction.

Happily the merits of the Alhambra were recognised as early as 1828, when what became a permanent restoration began. Its abstract geometrical decoration had a huge impact cheap nba jerseys on British decorative arts later in the century, it influenced the decoration of the Crystal Palace of 1851, and its name eventually became a byword for any form of pleasure palace, from music halls to cinemas. But the Alhambra was never a place of frivolity. It was built in troubled times to command a kingdom. The Moorish soldier-kings, however, hankered after more than that. They built their fortress as a retreat of sublime tranquillity.

(Copyright Hugh Pearman/The Sunday Times: the uncut version of the article published in the Sunday Times’s Millennium Masterworks series, October 3, 1999.