An international landscape tradition propelled Hala Nassar, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at West VirginiaUniversitys Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences, to alter the course of her personal and professional life dramatically.
“Islamic gardens developed in different parts of the world at different periods of time, however they all possess a great deal of similarity and undeniable physical unity,”Nassar said.
She first discovered Islamic gardens through reading and talking with other professionals.
“I immediately became interested in Islamic gardens, and it was a major turning point in my life,”she said.”I decided to move to the United States from Egypt to pursue a graduate degree and work with scholars who specialized in Islamic gardens and landscape in the Middle East.”
Prior to moving to the United States, Nassar attended AinShamsUniversity in Cairo, Egypt, where she obtained her undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture. Although the university did not offer landscape architecture as part of the curriculum, she was able to take various landscape architecture courses while working toward a degree in architecture. The Islamic faith is the main source of inspiration for Islamic gardens, she said.
“The elements of Islamic garden design are driven from descriptive verses of paradise garden in the Quran and Hadith,”Nassar said.”There are 164 different verses of the Quran and some Hadith provide the characteristic form and design vocabulary of the Islamic garden.”
The layout is usually quadripartite, meaning the garden is divided into four quadrants by water channels or walkways with a water fountain at center. Some of the basic design vocabulary of these gardens are water, pavilions, walls, gates and shade.
The supreme element design is water, she noted. Water and shade are two design elements mentioned as rewards given to the righteous in the Quran, due to the arid environment that dominates most of the Muslim world.
“Spreading shade is used as an expression in the Quran as part of the reward that awaits the believers and righteous,”Nassar added.
Pavilions, which are built directly above running water, provide homes for the righteous. According to the Quran, the righteous will reside in the pavilions where couches are lined with brocade.
Islamic gardens are enclosed due to the walls that surround the garden.
“The inward orientation provides seclusion from the hustle and bustle of everyday life,”she said.”On a more functional level, the walls protected the gardens from the desert climate.”
Islamic gardens are one of the many topics that Nassar teaches in her course”History of Landscape Architecture”at the DavisCollege.
“Islamic gardens were among some of the earliest gardens in history,”Nassar said.”I teach my students about the first Islamic gardens in Spain, India and Persia.”
Nassar will be speaking about Islamic garden design in Clarksburg in the spring of 2003. For more information, contact Nassar at 293-4832, ext. 4490.