Islamic Gardens and Landscapes

Front Cover
University of Pennsylvania Press, Dec 30, 2011 - Architecture - 296 pages

"In the course of my research," writes D. Fairchild Ruggles, "I devoured Arabic agricultural manuals from the tenth through the fourteenth centuries. I love gardening, and in these texts I was able to enter the minds of agriculturalists and botanists of a thousand years ago who likewise believed it was important and interesting to record all the known ways of propagating olive trees, the various uses of rosemary, and how best to fertilize a garden bed."

Western admirers have long seen the Islamic garden as an earthly reflection of the paradise said to await the faithful. However, such simplification, Ruggles contends, denies the sophistication and diversity of the art form. Islamic Gardens and Landscapes immerses the reader in the world of the architects of the great gardens of the Islamic world, from medieval Morocco to contemporary India.

Just as Islamic culture is historically dense, sophisticated, and complex, so too is the history of its built landscapes. Islamic gardens began from the practical need to organize the surrounding space of human civilization, tame nature, enhance the earth's yield, and create a legible map on which to distribute natural resources. Ruggles follows the evolution of these early farming efforts to their aristocratic apex in famous formal gardens of the Alhambra in Spain and the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Whether in a humble city home or a royal courtyard, the garden has several defining characteristics, which Ruggles discusses. Most notable is an enclosed space divided into four equal parts surrounding a central design element. The traditional Islamic garden is inwardly focused, usually surrounded by buildings or in the form of a courtyard. Water provides a counterpoint to the portioned green sections.

Ranging across poetry, court documents, agronomy manuals, and early garden representations, and richly illustrated with pictures and site plans, Islamic Gardens and Landscapes is a book of impressive scope sure to interest scholars and enthusiasts alike.


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The Islamic Landscape Place and Memory
Making the Desert Bloom Transforming an Inhospitable Earth
Color plates follow page
The Science of Gardening Agricultural and Botanical Manuals
Organizing the Earth Crossaxial Gardens and the Chahar Bagh
Trees and Plants Botanical Evidence from Texts and Archaeology
Representations of Gardens and Landscape Imagery in Manuscript Paintings Textiles and Other Media ...
Imaginary Gardens Gardens in Fantasy and Literature
A Garden in Landscape The Taj Mahal and Its Precursors
Religion and Culture The Adoption of Islamic Garden Culture by NonMuslims
List of Gardens and Sites

The Garden as Paradise The Historical Beginnings of Paradisiac Iconography
The Here and Hereafter Mausolea and Tomb Gardens

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About the author (2011)

D. Fairchild Ruggles is Associate Professor of Landscape History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the author of Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain.

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