Mashrabiya is a hybrid architectural element revealing the shifting cultural, historical and political dimensions in light of cultural globalization, foregrounding thereby the notion of identity as a process of constant flux and cultural exchange. Mashrabiya is a spiritual, decorative, and functional architectural element that merges the form and function of the Islamic window screen with a conventional jalousie, taking on the materiality of local culture. In its multicultural symbolism and formal references, the project performs as a multicultural signifier connecting multiple histories and geographies into a dynamic spatial experience.
Depending on the position and the gaze of the visitors, the perception of the piece and the spatial experience changes. Looking from the outside of the building towards the inside, that is towards Mecca, the viewer can see the inscription “Allah.” The inscription is designed as a three-dimensional puzzle of individual lace pieces based on Kufic calligraphy. Moving in the interior and looking to the outside, cross stitch-like motifs can be identified, providing reference to local Austrian cultural traditions. The choice of material — famous lace from Vorarlberg — reveals the fact that what is considered to be a typical local tradition is and has allays been a product of global cultural flows. As new customers from Nigeria and other African countries are bringing in new tastes to the local textile industry of Vorarlberg, the lace Mashrabiya deconstructs the notion of cultural identity and tradition as a static concept, rendering them visible as an interactive process of cultural exchange.
Azra Akšamija, Mashrabiya, 2013
mixed media (lace, wood, fish wire)
Produced for the exhibition “INTERIOR VIEW SOUTHEAST: Investigations of Islamic Spaces” at the Vorarlberg Architecture Institute (vai), Dornbirn (AT) 10 April – 29 June 2013 / curated by Azra Akšamija, with co-curators Margit Greinöcker and Tobias Hagleitner. The piece was produced with Karina Lia Penedo Silvester, Claudine Pachnicke. Material sponsoring (lace) was provided by the company HKG-Embroideries HOFER GMBH, Lustenau, Austria. Photos: © Markus Gohm, DarkoTodorovic, Azra Aksamija, vai.