The period of isolation and individuation is ended and everyone tries to learn from others. Representatives of Muslim countries should attend [the international fairs] so that they may examine the exhibits and learn what will benefit their countries.
S. HARAYRI, Ard al-Badai al-Amm (The General Exhibition), 1867, quoted in Ibrahim Abu-Lughod
In these [Ottoman] compositions, there is a very developed and refined art and elements of decoration that could be used by our artists and artisans.
VIOLLET-LE-DUC, preface to Architecture et décorations turques, 1874
The impact of international expositions on architecture extended far beyond the fairgrounds. The shock of the new, symbolized most strikingly in exhibition structures such as the Crystal Palace (1851), the Eiffel Tower (1889), and the Galerie des Machines (1889), soon gave way to an acceptance of boldly engineered forms as appropriate to the industrial age. The countertrend, a return to classicism, also first appeared on the fairgrounds: the classical White City of Chicago (1893) led to the City Beautiful movement, which made an immense impact on urban planning in the United States. The return to classicism in this country paralleled that in Europe, as reflected in the major buildings of the 1900 Universal Exposition, the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais.
Although exposition architecture in the West has been studied in some depth, its cross-cultural influences have, for the most part, remained in the background. The goal of this chapter is to investigate this relatively unexplored area, first by looking at what the "Orient" learned from the expositions held in European and American cities and then by examining how Islamic pavilions affected Western architecture.
In both cases, the process of absorbing ideas was complex. Muslim nations had to reconsider and redefine their cultural identities in order to present a summarizing image; as they did, they re-evaluated their past and present architecture and made projections for the future. Along the way they had to come to terms with the widespread influence of the "advanced" world. The direct involvement of Europeans in architecture and urbanism (as colonial decision makers and as invited technocrats) complicated the issues further.
That Westerners had long been fascinated by the East was demonstrated, for example, by the eighteenth-century upper-class fad of turquerie, the imitation of Turkish tastes in clothing and decoration. But aside from such playful influences, a serious trend emerged in the nineteenth century, initiated in England by Owen Jones, who, with the help of his meticulously illustrated publica-
tions, attempted to place Islamic architecture in a theoretical context, which could be referred to in new buildings. The expositions changed the medium through which Islamic architecture was introduced to the West from drawings and descriptions to actual buildings. European and American architects could now analyze structures from other cultures and reinterpret them in their own work. The process involved a reassessment of their own culture and of what had been presented as Islamic culture. Although many Western architects opted to use literal references in an eclectic fashion, for others non-Western architecture gave rise to critical and philosophical debates.
Learning from the West
Architectural representation at the world's fairs brought a new focus to the discussion of architecture in Islamic countries themselves. Ottomans played leading roles among other Muslim nations, both in architectural practice and in theoretical debate—not a surprising phenomenon, given the independent status of the empire. The Ottoman government hired Europeans as architects and consultants, but not as policy makers. Thus if Western trends were followed in architecture and urban planning, this was the result of a conscious choice by the ruling elite.
Developments in graphic representation techniques and in architectural philosophy during the last three decades of the nineteenth century diverged considerably from the conventions of the classical period. Exhibitions did not cause these changes, but they acted as catalysts by publicizing them—for they were embodied in the pavilions themselves, in architectural drawings displayed at the exhibitions, and in theoretical debates published on these occasions.
The architectural historian Gülru Necipoglu-Kafadar describes Ottoman architectural practice as heavily reliant on detailed plans, often presented in a grid. The standardization and modulation of such a system meant that the imperial style could be rapidly disseminated throughout the provinces. The elevation drawings, however, dependent on the miniature painting tradition, remained schematic and imprecise and did not match the meticulously detailed ground plans. In contrast, European drawings of Islamic monuments from the eighteenth century on presented carefully rendered perspectives, elevations, and sections, as well as plans. These were executed using European
techniques of graphic representation, which differed from the Ottoman practices in their rendering of elevations, sections, and perspectives. Detail drawings also belonged to the Western tradition and were introduced to the Ottoman Empire by European architects. The emphasis on Islamic details in Western drawings stemmed from the widespread belief among European architects that the value of Islamic architecture lay in its decorative creativity.
As European architects began practicing in the Ottoman Empire, they brought with them their own graphic traditions, which soon became the norm. For example, when Parvillée was commissioned to work on monuments in Bursa, he documented his surveys with precise plans, elevations, sections, drawings that combined sections and elevations, and drawings of many details. Furthermore, in some of the section-elevation drawings, he indicated the analytical lines demonstrating the rules of geometry he had "discovered" (see Fig. 55). Some of this work, displayed at the 1867 Paris exposition, legitimized the "official" adoption of the graphic techniques (see pp. 96–106).
In Usul-u mimari-i Osmani, or L'Architecture Ottomanae, published by the Ottoman government on the occasion of the 1873 exposition in Vienna (see chapter 2), the drawings by Montani Effendi, Boghos Effendi Chachian, and M. Maillard displayed the same techniques and the same repertoire of plans, sections, elevations, and details, some in color (Figs. 99–100). The book was
based largely on lessons learned from Parvillée's work. Although Usul-u mimari-i Osmani was published one year before Architecture et décoration turques, the introductory essay, with its emphasis on "rules" and "necessary drawings," is not coincidental or original but a continuation of discussions of the science and the "hard facts" of architecture stemming from Parvillée's designs for the 1867 exposition, Anatole de Baudot's analyses of these pavilions the same year, and Parvillée's Architecture et décoration turques, whose foreword was written by Viollet-le-Duc.
The concern for the revival of Ottoman architectural forms in Usul-u mimari-i Osmani did not extend to a search for an Ottoman architectural theory; nineteenth-century Ottoman attempts to interpret local architecture remained anchored to the European way of thinking. Although architectural theory in Islamic cultures is an elusive topic, yet to be studied, certain treatises stand out—among them two classical Ottoman texts that make sporadic references to the philosophical foundations of the discipline. In the biography of the great sixteenth-century architect Sinan, architecture was said to be the work of civilization; the great works of architecture and engineering symbolized the magnificence of the sultan and the state, embodying the height of civilization at the time. The architect was the creator of the civilized environment. Cafer Efendi's early seventeenth-century treatise also attempted to place architecture in a broad context by making an analogy between the creation of the universe and architecture and by discussing the similar roles of harmony, geometry, and proportions in the arts—specifically music and architecture. There was no comparable approach in L'Architecture ottomane or Architecture et décoration turques, which rationalized Ottoman architecture according to geometric and formalistic relationships. Although the first work speculated briefly on the appropriate uses of certain architectural elements, the discussion remained piecemeal.
Necipoglu-Kafadar's recent work emphasizes the geometric rules of classical Ottoman architecture. Although there were no elevation or section drawings in Ottoman practice, Necipoglu-Kafadar claims that elevations were "computed by traditional formulae deriving from proportions inherent in the geometric ground plans with modular grids"—not surprising given that Ottoman architects had a rigorous training in geometry. In this light, Parvillée's analyses appear particularly relevant, even though he avoided cross-references between plans and sections/elevations. Further research may yet prove that his
analyses of Bursa's monuments, focusing on geometric relations and numerical proportions, are more insightful than previously believed.
Participation in the world's fairs had an impact on architectural practice in Muslim countries: the search for a representational image in the exposition pavilions enhanced the development of a neo-Islamic style. As we have seen, these countries were concerned to develop an architectural style appropriate to the new age that would also reflect their historical heritage. For Muslim as for Western countries the expositions provided a setting in which to test new ideas. Of course, the buildings themselves were not physically accessible to people at home, but, for example, the extensive information on them in the contemporary Ottoman press suggests their potential as models to be followed at home.
Neo-Islamic style after the 1850s differed from earlier architecture that referred to the Ottoman Empire's classical period, its acknowledged highpoint, as an enduring model. Until then building functions and programs had provided continuity between the monumental architecture of past and present: the building types—mosques; madrasas, or religious schools; hospitals; mausoleums; etc.—had remained the same. In contrast, the neo-Islamic style of the second half of the nineteenth century was applied to new secular building types, adopted from Western precedents: an Islamic architectural vocabulary was used in otherwise Beaux-Arts buildings.
European architects designed the first neo-Islamic buildings in Istanbul, beginning in the 1860s. The early examples were architectural "fragments," like the Moorish-inspired gateway (originally conceived for the Golden Gate of the Theodosius walls) placed at the entrance of the new Ministry of Defense headquarters, now Istanbul University; it lined up neatly with the main gate of the ministry, designed by the French architect Bourgeois, its centrality accentuated by two symmetrical kiosks in a matching style (Fig. 101). The neoclassical military barracks in Taksim had an elaborate gate based on a mixture of "Islamic" styles from different regions (Fig. 102). The Islamic vocabulary of the tripartite portal to Bourgeois and Parvillée's 1863 building for the General Ottoman Exposition in the Istanbul Hippodrome (discussed in chapter 4) also stood out, but here the references were carried out in the facades as well.
The more radical applications of a neo-Islamic style occurred later in the
century, most strikingly in two monumental buildings: the 1889 Terminal of the Orient Express (described in chapter 3 with reference to the Ottoman pavilion erected for the 1900 Universal Exposition) and the 1899 Public Debt Administration Building, designed by the French architect Antoine Vallaury (Figs. 103–105). Located prominently on the hill behind the terminal, Vallaury's building combined Beaux-Arts principles with elements of the local chitecture: the large caves and bay windows were borrowed from Turkish houses; the choice of materials, the monumental entrances, and the fenestration echoed certain Ottoman monuments. Unlike the Terminal of the Orient Express, Vallaury's building was an exercise in a purely Turkish-Islamic revivalist style.
The evolution of a neo-Islamic style in Istanbul went hand in hand with architectural experimentation in the Ottoman exposition pavilions. The earlier building "fragments" in the capital—like the gateway to the Ministry of De-
fense—had the ephemerality of a stage set, perhaps because they stood out on buildings and complexes in otherwise different styles (for example, neo-Islamic portals on a neoclassical structure, as in the military barracks in Taksim). In contrast, the later structures have an imposing permanence, as they confidently integrate the traditional vocabulary into their design. These buildings correspond to such reinterpretations of Islamic architectural forms as those in the Chicago and Paris exposition pavilions in 1893 and 1900.
Cairo's Neo-Arabic Renaissance" (so named by Robert Ilbert and Mercedes Volait) paralleled the architectural developments in the Ottoman capital and originated in a similar concern about the loss of local architectural traditions under the growing influence of Western styles. For example, in 1871 Frantz
Bey warned that the old facades might soon disappear; ten years later it seemed to another commentator that "everything is threatened by the banal transformations which are invading our cities from the West."
In the late nineteenth-century architecture of Cairo and Alexandria, regional features such as corner stalactites, geometric bands defining windows, crenellations, musharabiyya s, and even minarets were used decoratively in public and residential buildings (Fig. 106). But local elements also came into play in fundamental changes of compositional principles. For example, the spatial organization of family functions in the Gazira Palace (built in 1863 by Frantz Bey and Curel) as well as in some villas of the 1870s was based on "a liberal way,
not . . . terrible old traditions"; thus in residential quarters the sexes were not rigidly divided.
The decorative trend became popular in small-scale buildings, such as single-family residences or apartment buildings, whereas the more radical trend was pursued in larger-scale public projects (for example, in the work of al-Sayyid Mitwalli Effendi, who was in charge of a number of public buildings for the Ministry of Public Works in the 1900s). Some of the intelligentsia, among them Mariette-Bey, claimed that a return to "Moorish decoration" was "childish." Although the theoretical debate, as well as most of the neo-Arabic structures, had been originated by European (French, German, and Italian) ar-
chitects, these men received their orders from Westernized Egyptian officials, including 'Ali Mubarak Pasha, Isma'il Pasha's Paris-educated minister of public works—the Haussmann of Cairo. Therefore, while the proponents of neo-Arabism in Egypt were European architects, the style reflected Egyptian social and cultural transformations, especially among the ruling elite and the newly developing "cosmopolitan bourgeoisie" for whom neo-Arabism was "an expression of a search for identity."
This search for identity was rehearsed in the exposition pavilions abroad. In fact, the same men who built the pavilions—among them Mariette-Bey—played leading parts in the construction industry in Egypt. The populist "decorative" approach corresponded to the attempt to represent Egypt truthfully at Western fairs in "streets of Cairo" characterized by irregular outlines, mush-
arabiyyas , arabesques, and dirty facades with peeling paint. In contrast, the search for fundamental transformations benefited from the construction of neo-Arabic palaces and okels on the exhibition sites.
The architectural scene in the French colonies of North Africa differed from that in the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. The colonizers in North Africa first expressed their presence and power through a deliberately foreign architecture. From the conquest of Algeria in 1830 to the 1900s, a "neo-classical austerity" dominated, beginning with extensive demolition in Algiers for a large Place d'Armes for military maneuvers and the construction of the first arcaded streets that cut through the lower Casbah.
Although the demolished sections of Algiers were filled with new buildings in the "conqueror's style" (Fig. 107), the French were not indifferent to North Africa's architectural heritage. From 1867 on, they constructed neo-Arabic pavilions to represent the colony at the universal expositions. In such "indigenous" architecture they effectively displayed the wealth and the extent of their imperial power, reserving the neoclassical "conqueror's style" for the Palace of the Ministry of Colonies.
After the turn of the century, as the political agenda shifted from "assimilation" to "association" under the leadership of Algeria's Governor-General Charles Jonnard, French architectural policy in the colonies showed a similar shift, realized in a "spirit of conciliation and tolerance." The official buildings in Algeria, Tunisia, and later Morocco began to quote the local heritage, leading to a new architecture that combined the principles of modernism with highly interpreted historical forms (Fig. 108). The preparatory work for this phenomenon, called arabisance by François Béguin, had already been completed at the world's fairs where architects of the colonial pavilions had interpreted the Islamic architecture of the colonies according to Beaux-Arts principles. During the first decades of the twentieth century, early modernists incorporated the "simple contours and facades" of Arab architecture into their repertoire, creating an architecture of "association" based on the elementary forms, geometric masses, and sparse decoration of France's North African colonies.
Learning from Islam
The fairs that provided architects with an unprecedented freedom to experiment were also, with their hundreds of thousands of visitors, active dissemi-
nators of ideas, spread even more widely by the popular and professional journals that dedicated long sections to the architecture of the pavilions. Expositions thus created rare opportunities to extend the discussion of architecture beyond professional circles to the general public; and fairgoers' responses to architectural experiments could indicate future success or failure.
Among the epoch-making exposition buildings, a few stand out for their resourceful interpretation of Islamic forms. Although many pavilions drew inspiration from Islamic buildings, the case studies included here distinguish themselves as significant theoretical and aesthetic statements.
Owen Jones at the 1851 London Exposition
The 1851 Universal Exposition precedes the period covered in this study. Because of the impact of Owen Jones's ideas on many leading architects, however, his contribution to the Crystal Palace must be discussed along with his theoretical stand. Joseph Paxton's Great Exhibition Building, known as the Crystal Palace, was decorated by Owen Jones according to principles he had drawn from Islamic architecture and particularly from the Alhambra, the palace of Muslim governors in Granada (Fig. 109). Jones's goal was to create a "new style" that would evolve from modern technology and would create forms capable of accepting color. Earlier, he had proposed to use new materials (iron and glass) in a grammar derived from Islamic buildings. But, as these proposals were never realized, the exposition provided a much-cherished opportunity for Jones to test his ideas.
Jones claimed to have based the interior decoration of the Crystal Palace on the following principles:
1. The Construction is decorated; decoration is never purposely constructed.
2. Beauty of form is produced by lines growing out from one another in gradual undulations; there are no excrescences; nothing could be removed and leave the design equally good or better.
3. The general form is first cared for; this is subdivided and ornamented by general lines; the interstices are then filled with ornament, which is again subdivided and enriched for closer inspection.
4. Color is used to assist in the development of form, and to distinguish objects, or parts of objects, one from another.
5. And to assist light and shade, helping the undulations of form by the proper distribution of the several colors; no artificial shadows are ever used.
6. That these objects were best obtained by the use of the primaries on small surfaces, or in small amounts, supported and balanced by the secondary and tertiary colors on the larger masses.
Jones developed these principles into the "general laws" of his Grammar of Ornament, published in 1856. The "general laws" of decoration, he argued, were common to historical styles but were independent of their particularities. He presented various Islamic styles as valuable "guides" for a new architecture, especially in their use of decoration and color, and argued that the Alhambra was the "culminating point" of Islamic architecture.
In the Crystal Palace Jones put into practice a color theory he had formulated based on archaeological (Greek, Egyptian, and Moorish) sources: blue, a relieving color, should be used on concave surfaces; yellow, an advancing (projecting) color, should be applied to convex ones; and red, "the color of the middle ground," was appropriate for horizontal surfaces. White helped to divide the primary colors, as in antiquity. Because the Alhambra was Jones's authority for the "proportions of color and methods of application," his "new style" had an "Oriental" feel. Furthermore, his design called for large hangings to separate the sections of the upper level, accentuating the barrel-vault effect of the interior and giving it the look of a bazaar—another touch of the East.
Jones created this atmosphere not by replicating Islamic forms but by interpreting them according to theoretical premises. Later his persistent search for the "science" of architecture and his incorporation of Islamic principles into this "science" would be pursued from another angle by French rationalists under the leadership of Viollet-le-Duc.
Frank Furness at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia
Frank Furness, the controversial Philadelphia architect, designed the Brazilian section in the main building of the 1876 Centennial Exposition in a neo-Islamic style (Fig. 110). Although the choice of style may seem peculiar for a Brazilian pavilion, it makes sense in terms of Furness's work, which was inspired by Islamic architecture. Furness had never been abroad, so he had seen neither Islamic monuments themselves nor the Ottoman, Egyptian, and North African exposition pavilions in Europe. Buildings erected in America in Islamic styles earlier in the nineteenth century were whimsical imitations, recalling European "follies," and as such they differed from Furness's highly interpreted use of Islamic forms.
A more direct influence on Furness may have been his mentor, Richard Morris Hunt. Hunt's cast-iron building for the Tweedy and Company Store (1871–72) in New York had a facade with lobed horseshoe arches of different scale on different levels and entrances inspired by mihrabs , or niches indicating the orientation of Mecca in mosques. Hunt's comprehensive library, which included works on Islamic architecture, was available to his apprentices. Furness might also have benefited from discussions with Henry Van Brunt, another of Hunt's protégés. In iron buildings Van Brunt advocated the "incised" (rather than the "applied") ornamentation and contrasts of color characteristic of Islamic architecture.
Publications, however—especially those of Owen Jones—appear to have been the main source of Islamic influence on Furness. James O'Gorman has shown Jones's direct influence, for example, in some of Furness's floral patterns. But, more significant, Furness adopted Jones's theoretical position on the integrity of form and decoration. In interpreting Islamic motifs, Furness went back and forth from literal borrowings to unconventional adaptations, from the Rodef Shalom synagogue (Fig. 111) of 1869, with its horseshoe-arch windows and its choir a Moorish maqsura (enclosure near the mihrab ) topped by an octagonal pavilion reminiscent of garden kiosks and fountains, to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts of 1871, with its three-story-high portal inspired by mosque portals and mihrabs (Fig. 112), and the Guarantee Trust and Safe Deposit Company Building of 1873, with its playful pointed arches and its fenestration serialized and superposed in an Islamic manner.
Furness employed his favorite Islamic themes in the Brazilian pavilion: the horseshoe arch and the pointed arch (both scalloped), crenellations, the superposition of square-sectioned columns over circular ones to create height and an elongated effect, clusters of circular columns to mark entrances, and brightly colored glass tiles and floral ornament. The screen-like walls defining the enclosure combined all these borrowed "Moorish" elements. Although Brazil was far from the Orient, it had a labyrinthine link to Islam through Portuguese colonization and the Moorish architectural heritage of the Iberian peninsula; Furness evidently associated Brazil directly with an Islamic style, for he neither experimented nor interpreted in designing the Brazilian section, as he did in other buildings designed for Philadelphia.
Gabriel Davioud at the 1878 Paris Exposition
Gabriel Davioud, one of Baron Haussmann's leading architects in the rebuilding of Paris, designed the imposing Trocadéro Palace for the 1878 Paris exposition in cooperation with an engineer named J. D. Bourdais (Fig. 113; see also Fig. 34). It became a landmark and the focus of expositions that followed, with its fountains and the Place de Trocadéro, a large open space between the palace and the Seine.
The palace was novel not in its organizational principles but in its architectural vocabulary. It was sited conventionally, on an axis with the Ecole Militaire across the Seine. Its domed central section (a theater that could hold six thousand persons) was symmetrically framed by curving lateral galleries. The style was viewed skeptically by some contemporaries, endorsed by others. According to one observer, the dome and towers were Byzantine. Others defined the structure as "a mixture of many styles—Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arabian, and Renaissance," or as "Romano-Spanish-Moorish." Yet another associated it with modernism: "It is neither this nor that, but it is modern." Viollet-le-Duc applauded Davioud for his "judicious employment of materials."
Perhaps the most striking Islamic elements in the Trocadéro Palace were the two square towers, modeled after the minarets of North African mosques—with elaborately ornamented facades and domed pavilions. The pavilions at either end of the building, used as entrances, each with large arches, a single dome, crenellations on the roofline below the dome, and large rosettes ornamenting the facades, recalled the portals of Islamic monuments. The portal motif was repeated in four secondary entrances on the curving colonnade; these were simpler variations on the same theme. The Islamic vocabulary was further expressed in the fenestration as well as in the bands of red stone and the polychromatic exterior decoration of tiles and mosaics.
The palace overpowered everything else on the fairgrounds. Its scale is understood best in the context of other exposition buildings, for example, the Algerian, Tunisian, and Moroccan quarters, situated in front of the Palace. The architectural references in these quarters were similar to those in the palace, but the scale in the colonial village was much smaller, the entire North African section being about the size of the central part of the Palace.
The majesty of the Trocadéro Palace helped to focus interest on Islamic architecture in Paris perhaps even more than the Islamic pavilions themselves. As the main building of the exposition, it was designed by an eminent Parisian archi-
tect, yet it marked a divergence from the norms of Western architecture in its vocabulary, its incorporation of Islamic forms into a Western syntax in a major structure. A contemporary critic called it "one of the greatest, naivest, most amusing feats in architecture ever achieved." The same critic found it graceful and playful, but "not a style to imitate." And in fact it set no precedent; neo-Islamic forms appeared only sporadically afterward in French architecture.
Adler and Sullivan at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago
Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler's Transportation Building was one of the most memorable structures at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago (Figs. 114–115). As an "architectural exhibit" in itself, it served one of the main goals of world's
fairs: education. Its location off the Court of Honor, where the main buildings of the exposition were erected in a uniform neoclassical style on an axial and symmetrical plan, enabled Adler and Sullivan to break some of the rules spelled out by the organizing committee and experiment with exterior ornamental forms. Nevertheless, they had to adjust their structure to its context and conform to exposition guidelines.
With its cornice line and the rhythm of its openings determined by other buildings in the main section, the Transportation Building fit snugly into the Beaux-Arts site plan. Its design also followed the conventions of the time: a central hall with an arcaded clerestory and a dome. But in the treatment of its surface and the color of its facades it contrasted with the other buildings in the White City. The exterior walls were light red at the lower level; the elaborate spandrels above were characterized by their "high pitch intensity in color." Winged figures on the spandrels were metaphors for transportation against a gold-leaf background. The main feature of the pavilion was the hundred-foot-wide and seventy-foot-high Golden Gateway, formed by concentric arches painted in gold.
The architects emphasized the external polychromy as the basis of their design:
The architecture of the building . . . has been carefully prepared throughout with reference to the ultimate application of color, and many large plain surfaces have been left to receive the final polychrome treatment. The ornamental designs for this work in color are of great and intricate delicacy; the patterns, interweaving with each other, produce an effect almost as fine as that of embroidery. As regards the colors themselves, they comprise nearly the whole galaxy, there being not less than thirty different shades of color employed.
Sullivan did not refer to Islamic precedents in this explanation of the Transportation Building (though others did). In a letter to Daniel Burnham on 16 October 1893, he argued that he had designed the Transportation Building in a "natural" manner, expressed by "elementary masses carrying elaborate decoration." He achieved geometric simplicity by using straight lines and semicircles. In contrast to this simplicity was the structure's richly colored decoration, created by "systematic subdivisions." In his use of color, Sullivan intended to reflect "the true nature of polychromy," combining and repeating "a great many colors" in sequence.
In Kindergarten Chats, he further clarified his point:
A decorated structure, harmoniously conceived, well-considered, cannot be stripped of its system of ornament without destroying its individuality. . . .
It must be manifest that an ornamental design will be more beautiful if it seems a part of the surface or substance that receives it than if it looks "stuck on," so to speak. . . . Both structure and ornament obviously benefit by this sympathy, each enhancing the value of the other. And this, I take it, is the preparatory basis of what may be called an organic system of ornamentation.
Among the critics of the Transportation Building was Montgomery Schuyler, who, arguing that Adler and Sullivan had turned Islamic architecture inside out, repeated the common misperception that all Islamic architecture is interiorized:
The Saracens, indeed, attained an interior architecture of plaster, and this architecture comprises all the precedents that were available for the architects of the Transportation Building. The outsides of those Saracenic buildings of which the interiors are most admired are little more than dead walls. One cannot fail to respect the courage and sincerity with which the architects . . . tackled their task.
Another contemporary critic, Charles Mulford Robinson, the acknowledged theorist of the City Beautiful movement, called this building "the bride of the Orient." Uneasy with its "strange" details, Robinson emphasized its otherness among the structures of the White City: it had a "voluptuous Orientalism," which caused it to stand out among the more masculine structures.
Arguing that Sullivan's building synthesized ancient, medieval, and Islamic elements, the architectural historian Dmitri Tselos notes analogies to Islamic monuments of North Africa and India—among them the twelfth-century Aguenaou Gate in Marrakesh. In fact, Sullivan's references to both the interior and exterior elements of Islamic monuments are broader than Tselos suggests. The hierarchical treatment of surface elaboration from planar to complex ornamentation is common in the architecture of many Islamic regions; for example, in Morocco, on the minaret of the Mosque of Sultan Hasan in Rabat from the Almohad period (late twelfth century). The curvilinear vine-and-scroll motif occurs in Syria on both Byzantine and early Islamic buildings of the Umayyad period; in later centuries it is found on the mihrab of the Great Mosque of Cordoba and in the surface decoration of many Mamluk buildings in Cairo. The Golden Gateway of the Transportation Building recalls the Rabat Gate in Oudna's fortifications (late twelfth century) as well as tombs in Bukhara, such as the Tomb of the Samanids, with its receding arched portal. The multiplication of receding arches is also seen in the mihrabs of Mamluk mosques in Cairo. The small domed "porch" evokes sixteenth-century fountains in the center of mosque courtyards in Istanbul (e.g., Sokullu Mehmed Pasa mosque).
The list of precedents could be extended, but archaeological detective work is beside the point here. Even a quick study of the Transportation Building facade shows that the structure embodied not Islamic revivalism but, in Sullivan's words, a rejection of "historical styles." Although such a statement reiterates the ahistorical quality ascribed to Islamic cultures in general, for Sullivan this was not a negative trait but a redemption. Here was the potential to create a new architecture.
Sullivan's search was a philosophical one. He saw himself as a creator of culture for the New World whose architecture would express intellectual, emotional, and spiritual realities, satisfying the "real needs of the people." To Sullivan, function meant "the whole life" that would be lived in a building. In his self-assigned role as prophet, he would interpret American life and idealize its egalitarian dimension, which he believed was best expressed by forms drawn from distant sources. His "exoticism" and his references to other cultures voiced his dissatisfaction with the dominance of classical forms. Nevertheless, Sullivan's "Orientalism" was purely formal: he referred to Islamic architecture
not because he was inspired by the civilization of Islam but only because the source was formally a novel and refreshing one.
Eugène Hénard at the 1900 Paris Exposition
Eugène Hénard is best known for his future-oriented urban design projects of the 1910s, which consolidated the technological developments of his time and focused on the problems of motor traffic. Like many architects of his era, Hénard apprenticed at the world's fairs, as both an architect and an urban designer. The Avenue Nicolas II and the Pont Alexandre III are his surviving achievements in Paris from the 1900 exposition. Hénard, to honor the "fire of the century," also designed one of the most spectacular structures of this exposition, the Palace of Electricity—a rectangular structure, 150 by 80 meters, near the Eiffel Tower. Its main room, called the Palace of Illusions, was a large hexagonal hall lined with mirrors for light and sound shows. It was here that Hénard appealed to Islamic architecture: to create a building "in air," he relied on an "intensive and original decoration," but only on the upper levels of the structure (Fig. 116).
The dome of the Palace of Electricity was its most striking feature. Trilobed horseshoe arches carried its load down to six sets of supports—each a cluster of three columns on high pedestals. The elaborate detail of the structure, built entirely of iron, glass, and zinc, produced the effect of "metallic lacework," but because the materials belonged to the new age of industry, the structure seemed to one contemporary observer to resemble "an extravagantly sumptuous factory rather than an exposition palace."
The Great Mosque of Cordoba provided Hénard's inspiration for both the architectural elements and the spatial qualities of the palace, particularly the sense of infinity created by the repetition of elaborately detailed arches in two directions. Although the Palace of Electricity had neither the space nor the programmatic justification for duplicating the Great Mosque, Hénard, to glorify the power of electricity, used mirrors to create multiple reflections of the illuminated arches, their complex supports, and their embroidered details.
The exterior of the Palace of Electricity reflected the turn-of-the-century art nouveau style. Hénard was undoubtedly searching for an architectural vocabulary for the new century, one without historicist references. Islamic architecture was different enough to help him formulate a new vocabulary. More-
over, the features Hénard used in the palace created a fantastic aura consistent with that of nineteenth-century world's fairs. For Hénard, fantasy was not a thing of the past but an element of the industrial age, embodied in the magic of electricity.
The dialogue between Western architecture and Islamic architecture goes back to the birth of Islam in the seventh century. As Oleg Grabar has shown, the originality of the formative period of Islamic art and architecture lay in "a series of attitudes toward the very process of artistic creation"; these attitudes led to a redistribution of a rich repertory of forms from conquered lands, a persistent dissociation from the meaning behind these forms, and the creation of a small number of new forms. Contact with Western art and architecture would not always result from the acquisition of territories; later, commercial ties played an increasingly important role.
In analyzing the impact of non-European arts on the West, Rudolf Wittkower argued that Western civilization incorporated non-European forms into its own sphere by "a triple challenge of ascending complexity: from the importation of non-European material, to its assimilation and adaptation, to its complete transformation," paralleling the processes described by Grabar for the early phase of Islamic art and architecture. Although cross-cultural studies in this area are just beginning, certain periods stand out for intensity of cultural exchange—for example, the second half of the fifteenth century, when contacts between Istanbul and Venice were particularly noteworthy. The attitudes toward the products of other cultures outlined by Grabar and Wittkower may well have characterized later periods as well, with variations depending upon specific conditions and contexts.
In the nineteenth century the frequency and the intensity of contacts between the two cultures increased, and the interpretation by one culture of the other's art and architecture became much more complex and widespread. It was no longer a matter of individual artistic choice but a force with a broad base in popular culture. The fairs celebrated the exchange between East and West. It is not surprising, then, that some of the most striking experiments in integrating Islamic forms into the Western buildings were carried out on the fairgrounds.
In the Ottoman Empire and in Egypt, the expositions acted as catalysts for intra-cultural developments. The architectural styles of the Ottoman and Egyptian pavilions reflected a quest for self-definition and a self-image that would fit contemporary needs while preserving a strong sense of each society's
history and culture, though that sense was often determined by the European viewpoint. The exposition pavilions were thus forerunners of neo-Islamic styles in the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. In the colonial context, however, the dominating culture appropriated the Islamic architectural heritage to its own stylistic repertoire, so that French architecture acquired a convenient image with which to furnish the North African colonies.