Monthly Archives: January 2013
3 great domes in 17 days
The Taj Mahal, in dusty, chaotic Agra, India, viewed through the red sandstone gatehouse, within the press of the crowd. Symmetry and material tension run high between the dark sandstone and the brilliant white marble of the mausoleum. Conceived by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to honour his beloved wife – who died giving birth to their 14th child.
The big onion dome hovers over the crypt, its reflection absorbed in the reflecting pool.
Young and old – the elder woman on the right bent nearly in half – cram into access stairs to the elevated plinth on which the Taj is set.
The entrance archway to the mausoleum: an astonishing, ‘edgy’ wrinkled and pleated treatment of white marble. This, accomplished by 1653.
Stone courtyard slabs leading to the Blue Mosque (1616), Istanbul.
Remember that rule about lighting up a room with at least two light sources? How about hundreds?
Sensory overload at the Blue Mosque: every tile, every inlay of marble, every dome set against another dome, intended to dazzle your senses with enlightenment and keep your mind distracted from the masonry weight of the domes.
Nearby, the Hagia Sophia: Holy Wisdom, designed at a monumental scale, sheathed in marble and gold and built, remarkably, in five years (532 – 37 CE). The Roman emperor Justinian commissioned the mathematician Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus to design the dazzling structure. What they achieved by way of supporting half-domes, quarter-domes and mammoth structural piers is mind-boggling. Forty small windows run along the lower ring of the uber dome, creating an illusion of weightlessness.
Exposed structure: the bronze girding at the base and top of the massive marble columns have prevented the splaying of the pillars over the centuries. The eye is kept constantly moving, from the milky-white river coursing through the marble floors to the green marble columns then the deep red ones, to the silver and gold of the mosaics.