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Alhambra’s Architecture: Muslim Spain Research Paper

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Updated: May 30th, 2021


The selected work of art for this discussion is the Alhambra (also called the Red One). This fortress complex appears to be combined with a superlative palace. The building is found in Granada, Spain (Garcia-Pulido, 2017). This paper begins by giving a formal description of this spectacular piece of art. The discussion describes the period and style associated with it. The essay goes further to analyze the architectural attributes and uniqueness of the artwork. The importance and meaning of the structure to modern scholars is described in details. The conclusion gives a succinct summary of the paper and the relevance of this building to contemporary society.

Image of the Selected Work

A sketch of the Alhambra.
Fig 1: A sketch of the Alhambra.

Formal Description

The Alhambra is a splendid palace characterized by distinctive structures and artistic attributes. To begin with, the building’s length is around 750 meters thus making it enormous. This work of art appears to resemble a palace with a castle appearance. Visitors can see a residential apartment in the building. The Royal Complex has three distinctive parts. These include the Harem, Mexuar, and Serallo (Curl & Wilson, 2015). The Mexuar exhibits unique decorations. Floors and ceilings are designed using brown wood. The Harem has bathrooms with pressurized water.

The building has a room known as the Hall of the Ambassadors. It is the largest and has a huge dome that makes it impressive. The Court of the Lions is a courtyard with an oblong shape. It is decorated using white columns. There is also a pavilion with a doomed roof and filigree walls (Garcia-Pulido, 2017). An alabaster basin is noticeable in this structure. This washbasin is known as the Fountain of Lions and has twelve lions. These are lifeless forms designed and decorated using marble. The garden of Arif is one of the villas connected to the palace.

Other notable features include the Court of the Council Chamber, the Hall of Justice, and the Queen’s Robing Room. These structures appear to have architectural uniqueness, decoration, and architecture. The Upper Alhambra is observed to have a labyrinth, sepulchers, summer-rooms, and bedrooms. Large vases (called Alhambra vases) are evident in this structure. Individuals can see numerous column arcades, reflecting pools, and magnificent waterways that enhance the palace’s aesthetic values (Arnold, 2017). The upper parts of different walls have inscriptions in Arabic. Tile mosaics form mathematical patterns known as laceria. Such aspects of art make the building exceptional and wonderful to the viewer.

Historical Selection

The Alhambra is arguably one of the widely studied structures in the world. This happens to be the case because it has a long history characterized by different events. However, every person will acknowledge that the palace is a classical example of Islamic architecture. The style is also influenced directly by various designs that were associated with the Byzantine era (Garcia-Pulido, 2017). Artists acknowledge that the palace complex exhibits the famous Nasrid style. This was a form of Islamic art that denominated the region from the early 13th century (Ghasemzadeh, Fatherbaghali, & Tarvirdinassab, 2013). The art is characterized by Arabic inscriptions, geometrical patterns, and carved plaster. The use of tile mosaics, as observed in this structure, was common among pioneers of the style.

The complexity and adoption of different artistic styles can be attributed to the building’s vast history. Originally, the palace was constructed as a fortress by the Romans. This means that it borrowed most of the artistic fashions embraced by the Romans in 889 AD. It was later reconstructed by Arab Mohammed Al-Ahmar in the 13th century (Jani, Harun, Mansor, & Zen, 2015). The ruler designed the palace and the surrounding wall. In 1333, the Sultan of Granada named Yusuf I converted the structure to become a royal palace. The fortress would later be occupied during the Christian Reconquista towards the end of the 15th century. The palace was, for the third time, redesigned by its new occupants. This development explains why the renaissance style is also evident in this structure.

This analysis shows conclusively most of the structure’s attributes and features exhibit Islamic architecture. These include the Alcazaba, annexed rooms, and the towers. Historians acknowledge that most of the features added later during the Nasrid kingdom did not survive. This spectacular artwork, therefore, displays the best of Muslim art and the concept of a paradise (Garcia-Pulido, 2017). The added tunnels, Arabic inscriptions, fountains, arcades, and pools make it an admirable piece that serves both architectural and aesthetic functions.

Analysis of the Work

Although this work is attributed to Mohammed and Yusuf I, every visitor will wonder why it houses a palace bearing the name of Charles V. It is also evident that most of the features defining the complex palace are still noticeable today. The Fountain of Lions can be analyzed as a portrayal of the sovereignty, power, and dominance of the designers of the palace (Jani et al., 2015). Archeologists and historians can analyze these features to study how architectural designs changed or influenced each other over the years. Specifically, they should examine the influences different styles such as the Renaissance and the Byzantine had on this structure. Additionally, different Muslim leaders appeared to fancy the artistic styles embraced by the Europeans (Ghasemzadeh et al., 2013). Consequently, they chose to such styles, thereby transforming Islamic architecture.

This understanding should encourage more people to examine how cultures embrace each other’s ideas and use them to come up with superior designs. This magnificent artwork can be studied and analyzed as an amalgamation of various styles that dominated Europe for many centuries. Scholars should also be willing to explore the impacts of injudicious restorations and defacement on historical artworks (Petruccioli & Pirani, 2013). Despite the fact that the building displays Islamic architecture at its best, many historians have acknowledged that the move by different rulers to redesign it for their own intentions amounts to cultural vandalism. This understanding must be embraced by different communities in order to promote and preserve art instead of destroying it. The best thing is to borrow the artistic styles without distorting or destroying them.


The Alhambra is a significant building that exhibits the unique attributes and features of Islamic architecture during the 14th century. The structure also borrows numerous styles and ideas from the Byzantine and Renaissance eras. The palace brings together diverse architectural concepts, thereby making it an unforgettable piece of art. The survival of this work should encourage every person in the society to support the preservation of ancient buildings (Petruccioli & Pirani, 2013). This practice is critical since cultural vandalism and imprudent refurbishment are malpractices that threaten the future of architectural works that link the present to the past.


Arnold, F. (2017). Islamic palace architecture in the western Mediterranean: A history. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Curl, J. S., & Wilson, S. (2015). The Oxford dictionary of architecture. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Garcia-Pulido, L. J. (2017). The last and most developed Naṣrid palace in the Alhambra: The Alijares and its country estate (fourteenth century). Journal of the Medieval Mediterranean, 29(1), 60-83. Web.

Ghasemzadeh, B., Fatherbaghali, A., & Tarvirdinassab, A. (2013). Symbols and signs in Islamic architecture. European Review of Artistic Studies, 4(3), 62-78. Web.

Jani, H. H., Harun, N. Z., Mansor, M., & Zen, I. (2015). Exploring the Islamic garden concept as inspirational landscape design. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 170, 359-368.

Petruccioli, A., & Pirani, K. (2013). Understanding Islamic architecture. New York, NY: Routledge.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Alhambra's Architecture: Muslim Spain." May 30, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/alhambras-architecture-muslim-spain/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Alhambra's Architecture: Muslim Spain'. 30 May.

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