Designer Leyla Uluhanli gathered a whole team of specialists to prepare the most representative album about Islamic architecture
On the cover of the album Mosques: Splendors of Islam (Rizzoli, 2017) – The Cathedral Mosque of St. Petersburg.
ELLE DECORATION How was the idea of the book born? Tell us why you are interested in this topic?
LEILA ULUKHANLI I grew up in Baku, and I have always been amazed by the exquisite beauty of mosques, especially the architecture, which has amazing geometry. In all the cities I have visited, I have never ceased to admire their magnificence, skill and talent of those who created these masterpieces. Despite the fact that the number of ornaments that can be used in the construction of a mosque is limited. The dream was born to make an album, which would show the architectural ensembles of the largest mosques along with the interiors. The idea grew into a large-scale study involving leading experts in the field.
Dome of the “Heart of Chechnya” mosque named after Akhmat Kadyrov in Grozny.
ELLE DECORATION How did you select architectural monuments? How many are there?
L.U. First, we selected about two hundred of the most beautiful mosques from around the world – ancient and modern. As a result, in order to fit into the format of the book, the list had to be shortened – leaving fifty-three. Among them are the Cordoba Cathedral Mosque, the Imam Mosque in Isfahan, and the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul. On the cover is the Cathedral Mosque in St. Petersburg. In general, the geography of the project is impressive: Russia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, the Middle East, Egypt, North Africa, India. A separate essay is dedicated to each mosque. Authors include Susan Babaye, Lecturer at the Andrew William Mellon Foundation for Islamic Arts and the Arts of Iran, Walter B. Denny, Professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and many others. We are grateful to Prince Amin Aga Khan IV, who wrote the introductory article and supported the release of the album. It is safe to say that together we have made a book, which has no analogues in the completeness of the presented material over the past 40 years.
The author of the album is designer Leyla Ulukhanli near the Bibi-Heybat mosque in Azerbaijan.
ELLE DECORATION Did you face any difficulties while preparing the album?
Л .U. Because of them, the work on the book stretched out for eight years. We corresponded actively with museums to obtain primary sources and illustrations, which took a lot of time and effort. Somewhere it was difficult to get permission to photograph.
Al-Karaouin Mosque in Fez, Morocco.
ELLE DECORATION What photographs illustrate the edition?
LU A whole team of photographers worked with us: Raid Allehiani, Jonathan Bloom, Saurabh Chabra, Vimal Shekhar Mehta, Jimmy Qureshi, Yuri Palmin. Most of the shots were made specifically for this edition. But they also took something from the archives.
Sanjaklar Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.
ELLE DECORATION Which reader do you think will be interested in the book first of all?
L.U. So far, the book is published only in English. In addition to the architectural features of mosques, the pages of the album tell a lot about the decorative elements of interior spaces. Iconography, tiled mosaics, the meaning of calligraphic inscriptions – all these topics are also explored. I hope the album will interest a professional audience and serve as an additional source of inspiration and knowledge. www.rizzoliusa.com
Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.