Algazi architecture

From CWS Planet
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Algazi architecture is the architecture of the Algazi Union and historic Algazi communities worldwide. Though deeply linked to other Ekuosian architectural traditions, local stylistic developments and influences from more exotic cultures have given Algazi architecture a distinctive character. While some notable building types, such as temples, have remained relatively consistent, others have changed dramatically with changes to the political, social, and urban fabric of Algazi society. Vernacular architectural styles largely diverged from each other based on local factors such as climate, context, and availability of materials. By contrast, elite and monumental architecture has frequently shifted due to political, social, and cultural developments. While some building types, such as temples, have remained relatively consistent, others, such as palaces, have seen dramatic evolution of form and style.

History

Early Architecture (Before 4th Century CE)

Argeyazic peoples in the modern-day Algazi Union maintained a semi-nomadic lifestyle with little permanent construction until the 3rd through 1st Centuries BCE. During this time, the introduction of improved irrigation techniques led to the intensification of agriculture and the emergence of permanent settlements. These were typically built on hills or mountains to protect from raids by other clans. Buildings in these settlements were simple and solidly-built. Buildings were one or two stories in height; the lower floor was used for storage, and was often built into the hillside. Mud brick was the primary building material, but stone was used when available. Rooves were flat or sloped and made of wood, thatch, or palm fronds. Buildings had few doors and windows, which featured heavy wood or stone lintels.

Yurek Period (4th-7th Centuries)

Courtyard of a restored aristocratic palace from the early Yurek Period.

The Yurek Period saw the beginnings of urbanization, the emergence of Hafsigh as the dominant local power, and substantial Letstatian and Adzamic influence in all areas of culture. As a result, it was at the beginning of this era that more elaborate, large-scale architecture emerged in the region. Buildings began featuring relief decorations, patterned brick or stonework, and painted or glazed tile for ornament. Though still typically flat or sloped, rooves were also increasingly clad in terra cotta tile and often accompanied by prominent cornices or parapets.

Perhaps the most important development was the introduction of the arch, which would transform both the structure and appearance of Algazi buildings. In addition to allowing larger and taller buildings, arches allowed for larger and more frequent openings in walls. Consequently, windows would become increasingly prominent over the course of the Yurek Period. Blind arches and arcades, both round and corbelled, were used as decorative features. The horseshoe arch also emerged at the end of the Yurek Period, initially used for smaller windows and doors.

Sadhas Period (8th-10th Centuries)

Arch at the ruined Palace of Hayan the Wise, outside Hafsigh.

While architecture became progressively more elaborate and ornate over the course of the Yurek Period, architecture became significantly more ostentatious following the establishment of the Sadhas Dynasty in 694, as both a reaction to the austerity imposed by the Serimites and as a display of the state's renewed wealth and power. While the Yurek Dynasty was rooted in the ancient Argeyazic clan system, the Sadhas rulers relied on projection of power to legitimize their rule. Though Dareb I, the dynasty's founder, employed a more defensive and militaristic style in his commissions, his successors, more secure in their positions, favored luxurious architecture that emphasized wealth and ritual. As a result, buildings during the Sadhas Period became significantly more open, with larger and more frequent windows, arcades, and colonnades. The distinction between indoors and outdoors was blurred; rooms were often open on one side to a garden or courtyard, while both ritual and everyday functions frequently took place in covered porches. Instead of emphasizing defensibility and physical security, Sadhas rulers sought to project an image of confidence and superiority.

Both round and horseshoe arches figured prominently, often with striped patterns. Polylobed arches also began to appear during this period, though commonly relegated to decorative features. Arches were increasingly supported by ornamented columns rather than solid piers as in earlier designs; thinner and more delicate in appearance, columns added to the lighter and more open feel of Sadhas architecture. By this time, stone had become the dominant material for formal construction, with different colored stones used for decorative effect. However, brick remained in wide use in both formal and informal contexts. Shallow hipped and gabled rooves also became the norm during the Sadhas Period, with flat rooves remaining fairly common. In addition to decorative brickwork and stonework, buildings were decorated with painted tile and plaster reliefs incorporating floral and figural designs.

Late Sadhas/Early States Period (11th-13th Centuries)

From the beginning of the 9th Century CE, Sadhas rule over the Hafsighi Kingdom gradually weakened. While Hafsigh itself and its hinterland remained under the king's control, local elites came to control most of the kingdom. As a result, elite construction was dominated by regional aristocrats even before the collapse of the Hafsighi Kingdom in 1078. Instead of the villas and suburban estates of the Sadhas monarchy and aristocracy, they made their homes in urban palaces. These were typically large, two- to three-story freestanding buildings arranged around an expansive courtyard. The ground floor typically housed the offices of the family's commercial operations; as a result, the building's courtyard was often open to the public, at least for some hours of the day. While some living spaces were located on the ground floor, the bulk were housed on upper floors.

Due to the instability and economic decline that came with waning Sadhas power, architecture during this period was more restrained than during the height of Sadhas rule. Buildings returned to more solid, defensible designs with relatively few openings. Buildings were generally built of one type of local stone and/or brick. Elite architecture also began to vary more significantly by geography during this time, often reflecting vernacular architecture more closely.

Despite this, much of the visual language of Sadhas architecture was retained. Though buildings had fewer windows, blind arcades and arches were used as surface ornament. These were less ornate, however, and more emphasis was places on repeating patterns, such as a band of arches along a facade instead of one to three arches set within a frame. Though polylobed arches remained in use for decoration, round arches largely replaced horseshoe arches for openings. Other surface decoration was simpler than during the Sadhas period, but remained extensive, with continued use of tile and decorative brickwork, as well the popularization of interior wall paintings.

Late States Period (14th-16th Centuries)

By the late 13th Century, the regional economy had largely recovered from the collapse of the Hafsighi Kingdom; trade in the region would expand substantially in the following centuries, with Algazi city states becoming centers of global trade. As a result, more and more wealth flowed into Algazi cities and into the hands of their ruling families. For these elites, display of foreign goods and cultural influences served to display the extent of a family's economic network; incorporation of imported forms and elements helped to make this a period of unprecedented architectural innovation in Algazi cities. The urban palaces and trade houses of aristocratic families became very lavish during this time, as did the public buildings they sponsored. Homes and businesses of tradespeople and minor merchants also became larger and more elaborate as a result of aristocratic patronage.

As Algazi cities grew, urban land became more precious; at the same time, the business operations of aristocratic families grew in scale and complexity. As a result, palaces became more compact and vertically-oriented, while commercial functions shifted to dedicated trade houses. In contrast to the older palaces, newer palaces, built on C-, T- or L-shaped plans, were deeper, narrower, and directly abutted adjacent buildings. Many of these palaces typically retained some degree of public-facing commercial use, such as offices or banking, but the ground floors were otherwise dedicated to storage, kitchens, private baths, and other practical functions. The floor above, the piano nobile, was the most ostentatious floor, housing reception rooms, dining rooms, studies, and other formal spaces. The piano nobile typically featured many large windows, balconies, and rich ornamentation. Larger palaces might have a second piano nobile above. Upper floors were more restrained and housed private apartments, servants' quarters, and other private uses.

Former tradehouse of the Fayan family in Adhar harbor. The main building was built in the 1480s, with the taller annex at right built in 1518.

The trade houses included shops, offices, storage, and even lodgings for the family's visiting agents. While a family typically had one large, especially lavish trade house in their home city, smaller versions were built in all cities in which they operated across the world. In cities with a lesser presence of Algazi merchants, several families from the same city would share a trade house. While many, particularly in Ekuoisa, retained a primarily Algazi style, others combined Algazi elements with local materials and techniques, especially in different climates. The Algazi quarters that developed around these trade houses are similarly hybrid in character, consisting of buildings in the local vernacular tradition with superficial Algazi features such as stucco cladding, tile rooves, and arched openings.

During this period, pointed arches largely displaced plain round arches. Both horseshoe and polylobed arches regained popularity, and were often pointed as well. Ogee arches also developed from pointed arches, and became common in the mid-15th Century. The striped voussoirs that had figured prominently in Hafsighi and post-Hafsighi architecture were largely abandoned, replaced by archivolts and pediments. While interlocking arches had long been a common decorative feature, they reached new levels of complexity. Ornamentation was elaborate, but used relatively sparingly; rich stone, plaster, and tile decoration around windows and doors and on the piano nobile was juxtaposed with areas of mostly unadorned walls. As a result of increasing building heights, thick piers and columns were used for support, but thinner Sadhas-style columns were a common decorative element. This period also saw the popularization of domes; though rarely used in private residences, they were readily adopted for temples and other public buildings.

Late League/Early Union Period (17th-18th Centuries)

The increasing integration of the cities of the Algazi League encouraged a renewed interest in the history and culture of the Hafsighi Kingdom, held up as an age of Algazi unity. This accelerated with the formation of the modern Algazi Union in 1724. The result was a revival of Sadhas architectural forms, such as round and horseshoe arches with striped voussoirs, as well as a preference for open design linking indoor and outdoor spaces. In a dense urban context, the latter prompted a shift to more complex floorplans that featured projecting and recessed volumes, more balconies, rooftop patios, and turrets, all of which could be used to create distinctive spaces. While screens and grilles remained common for enclosed patios and balconies, windows were now almost exclusively glass.

From the late 17th Century, the relative status of the Algazi League and the Algazi merchant families declined, a trend which accelerated following unification. Despite—or perhaps because of—this, elite and public buildings became ever more ornate, with rich plasterwork and painted tile adorning showier and more colorful facades. Windows and doors often featured varied Cheaper materials, such as mass-produced ornaments and brick instead of stone, helped to offset the costs of more heavily decorative buildings; nonetheless, aristocratic families and local governments spent a greater share of their budgets on architecture in pursuit of prestige.

This period also saw the emergence of the urban courtyard apartments that would dominate Algazi cities in the following century. These resembled simplified versions of earlier noble palaces, with apartments opening onto a courtyard. However, unlike those palaces, the street-facing ground-floor facades were very open in design, reflecting the presence of shops on the ground floor. The entrance to the courtyard was typically large and ornate, and often located in the center of the facade; though today these generally feature doors or gates, they were historically open to the street.

19th Century to Present

National Assembly of the Algazi Union, built 1889. While urban architecture generally simplified during the 19th Century, formal and monumental construction maintained the showy character of 18th Century architecture but introduced elements from different historical periods.

During the 19th Century, both the continued decline of the Algazi Union's economic status and the growth of its cities led to a simplification of urban vernacular architecture. Typical urban buildings were simple and boxy in form, and largely built of stucco-covered brick. Buildings featured few projecting or recessed spaces and volumes, save for balconies. Most openings had simple lintels, with arches of varying types limited to the most prominent doors and windows. Applied ornament was mostly limited to ground floors and cornices; tile, however, was used extensively for accents, as mass production had made it inexpensive. Given the general shift to simpler architecture, both vernacular and elite architecture moved away from Hafsighi revivalism, with renewed interest in the architecture of the late States and early League Periods. Elements from different periods and styles were used freely, however, with little regard to historical cohesion.

At the end of the 19th Century, narrower apartment blocks without courtyards began to predominate over the courtyard type, though the latter remained common until the Great Ekuosian War. Apartment blocks also increased in height as elevators became more common. Buildings typically maintained the general form of earlier vernacular architecture, with an open ground floor, relatively blank surfaces, and frequent balconies. However, the visual language was increasingly modernist, especially in the postwar period; arches were largely abandoned, flat rooves became the norm, and there was little or no ornament. Newer buildings instead derived their visual interest from a more complex arrangement of masses and spaces, and often featured recessed ground floors and balconies, projecting awnings and brise soleils, and breezeblock screens. Changes in material were often used for visual accents, and glass curtain walls also became common, especially in recessed spaces. High-rise residential and commercial buildings also emerged during the post-war period, particularly in Eyadhan and Yazurum; unlike regular apartment blocks, these were more purely modernist and had little continuity with earlier urban architecture.

Vernacular Architecture

As a result of close relations between the elites of various cities, elite Algazi architecture has historically been fairly consistent geographically; vernacular architecture, by contrast, is characterized by extensive regional variation, especially in rural areas. This variety reflects not only local climate and materials, but also the historic and present-day ethnic makeup or a region, degrees of contact with foreign cultures, and differences in economy and lifestyle. For example, buildings in the (Koklates? confirm) Mountains, the central desert plateau, and the northern Algazi Union all feature thick walls and minimal openings to provide insulation. The similarities end there, however. In the mountains, buildings are built of stone, are typically two stories in height, feature sloped rooves to keep off snow, and are clustered closely together in villages for better insulation and to avoid using precious arable land. Buildings in the plateau, meanwhile, are low-slung, with porches and awnings to provide shade; houses are typically housed in small compounds with barns and areas for livestock, leading to spread-out settlements. In the north, by contrast, rural areas are larely populated by Azri, who maintain their own architectural traditions.