.Muqarnas Onion Domes

Muqarnas Domes Offer Boundless Variation

The central muqarnas dome is already an attractive shape. Its geometry is clearly defined, as are its constituent elements, the muqarnas blocks. The central dome can have a variety of symmetries, which in turn, will define the shape of more complex compositions. Of these more complex muqarnas arrangements, the most basic is the expansion of the central muqarnas dome itself.

.A Few Muqarnas Dome Variations

I refer to the expanded sections of the central dome as tiers. I initially discovered only two, the ‘Ray’ and the ‘Crescent’ expansion methods. These are pictured above in a manner that displays each technique. Interestingly, the bottom edge of each tier for each expansion method is identical. This means that, if desired, more than one method can be used on the same dome.

I developed the ‘Ray’ method first. Here is an animation of it. It has three tiers. From a design perspective it is unlikely that a dome would use more than three or four tiers. It would probably look too repetitious. However, more tiers would be an opportunity to use more expansion methods.

The ‘Crescent’ expansion method is the next I developed. Here is its animation. By having alternate layers curve in opposite directions the effect is more pleasing. It also has three tiers. Note: the central dome is identical to the one above.

It turns out that there is a large number of muqarnas central dome expansion methods. It is probably a mathematical problem that someone more skilled in the mathematical arts than myself could solve in a general form. However, I can point to the scope and breadth of variation with the image below.

.A Few Muqarnas Dome Variations

As a demonstration of the validity of this rather ad hoc approach I offer a rendering of the ‘Flame’ method below, which is diagrammed in the top right of the image above. Note: the lines are a partial plan view of the central muqarnas dome.

.A Few Muqarnas Dome Variations

I hope you have enjoyed this look at a small corner of muqarnas compositions. There are so many unique families of forms, plus surprisingly complex compositions made from elements from very different, seemingly incompatible shapes. The study of muqarnas will involve me for the rest of my life, and, if I am very lucky, some other individual or individuals will be infected with the same determined fascination that attracts me to these gems of Islamic architecture.