Samarkand Gur Emir Mausoleum, Uzbekistan
“Every culture and religion has their own particular understanding of the relationship between the divine and the world. This implies a certain manner of unfolding, which informs theology, art and architecture.
The term fold in ancient Persian culture and language is often synonymous with the definition for sides of a polygon. For Instance, an octogon is referred to as an eight-folded geometry and the interior of the polygon is called its body. Translation of this definition in architecture brings great importance to the folds or the edges of space dividing geometry. The main trait of traditional Persian architecture is based on the notion of creating an earthly paradise through series of subdivided gardens, water canals, and indoor and outdoor rooms. Thus, the geometric folds become the defining borders for enfolding material differentiation. This garden design philosophy called Chahar Bagh (four gardens) has influenced the design of gardens from Taj-Mahal to Alhambra and beyond.
However, after the 8th century the notion of material articulation was overshadowed with the introduction of Islamic architecture to the Persian culture which reinforced the use of more complex geometric forms in order to create elaborate tile patterns often referred to as quasicrystals. A quasicrystal formation is based on arrangement of a set of polygons (often five to twelve sided) to create complex tiling patterns. This application of pattern intensity is rooted in the Islamic believe of transfiguration and transformation as an essential part of material life. The application of quasicrystal patterns, whether as an architectural style, textile design or calligraphy, becomes a way of representing the world around less substantial and articulated. In this notion the pattern becomes a tool for de-materialization of architecture. The scale differentiation of monocentric quasicrystal patterns on dome ceilings introduces a forced perceptual trajectory for the visitors. This focal point of pattern deformation creates a sensation of lightness in the ceiling of the space and creates the idea of arriving from geometric multiplicity to formal unity and reinforces the notion of infinity in the space.
A Deleuzian might object that Islamic art and architecture cannot be a playing field for real creativity because its purpose is to direct the worshipper toward God. But, one can argue that Deleuze’s notion of the folds in the soul inspired by Gottfried Leibniz’s theories of Monads as centers of force, are based on the idea that a fold is always influenced by a force and is constantly imposing force on to its adjacent fold. Deleuze states that, “the world must be placed in the subject in order that the subject can be for the world. This is the torsion that constitutes the fold of the world and of the soul.” [p.26] Therefore, one can argue that the same force interplay between a subject and the world could also be applied to analyzing the relationship between an elaborate quasicrystal pattern on a ceiling and an observer. This force interchange allows great deal of individual interpretation, encourages endless curiosity, and creates a perceptual and contemplative venture into the infinite for the person experiencing the space.”