I wrote a short essay about rectangular boundaries which are defined by two intersecting orthogonal axes in the history of architecture.
The primitive sacred expression of the four elements which combined with a central element can be found in all religions and mythologies of the world. The Cosmic Cross and the Axis Mundi (the cosmic center) are the most known representations which relate to the four cardinal points. Since the origin of the sacred expression of the four is related to the spatial orientation of man in the world, it acquired spatial and strictly geometrical representations. Therefore, that representations were adopted in the construction of quadripartite cities (e.g. urbs dei), palaces, temples (e.g. Buddhist stupas, Hindu temples, Christian cruciform churches and martyria, Islamic four-iwan mosques and madrasas, and Sufi domed four-iwan khanaqahs, etc.), tombs and Persian gardens (e.g. chahar baghs). Thusly, rectangular boundaries, defined by two intersecting orthogonal axes marking the four corners of the world can be seen in all these architectural and landscape sites clearly.[i]
The most momentous work that survives in Iran is Masjid-i Jami at Isfahan was initially built by the early Muslims who arrived in the first century after the Hijra (AH). The mosque was enlarged by Buyids (between 908-32 CE), following the restructuring of the mosque to a typical hypostyle plan by Abbasids in 840-41 CE. After Seljuks made Isfahan their capital, the mosque reached a remarkable position. The vizier of the Seljuk Sultan Malik Shah, Nizam al-Mulk supported much of the rebuilding of the mosque and he introduced many features including a large brick dome in front of the mihrab in imitation of the Umayyad mosques (between 1086/87 CE). Later, a political rival of Nizam al-Mulk, Taj al-Mulk added a seldom equaled sister dome (between 1088/89 CE) at the opposite end on the northern axis of Nizam al-Mulk’s dome. During 1120-1121, an occurred fire consumed much of the original Masjid-i Jami except Taj al-Mulk’s dome. Moreover, the transformation from the hypostyle plan of mosque into a four-iwan scheme, which arranged around a large courtyard, was during these times as well. Plus, the alignment of the walls’ decorated panels, the squinches, and windows above them expressed an impressive verticality and achieved a structural harmony. The mosque is a masterpiece of brick architecture, besides it has presented new elements, structural ingenuity and complexity. Furthermore, traces of Seljuk architecture are seen in the applications: the amalgam of decoration compositions which is produced by the variety of brick patterns, the detailed work in carved stucco, colored panels of floral, geometric and epigraphic motifs. Continue reading