This page presents the abstracts of the publications of Dr. M. A. Yaghan.

"Gadrooned-Dome's Muqarnas Corbel: Analysis, and Decoding Historical Drawings"
Architectural Science Review, vol.46, No. 1 March 2003

This paper analyzes the type of muqarnas (muqarnas-corbel) that appeared under some gadrooned domes during the fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries in Egypt and Central Asia.

It starts with a study of the gadrooned dome type, its proper terminology, origin, evolution, and sub-types.

Then, the paper defines the muqarnas-corbel under gadroons, presents the buildings where it appeared, suggests its formal origins, draws an evolution map, and concludes its regional stylistic attributes.

Finally, and based on the above, it decodes two historical muqarnas-corbel drawings into possible three-dimensional forms.


M. A. Yaghan

Phoibos Verlag

CD-ROM with drawings and programs written in AutoLISPr included.
152 pages; 79 drawings; 24 x 16 cm, Paperback; Vienna 2001
ISBN 3-901232-24-9
Price: ATS 549,- / DEM 78,- / EUR 39,90

This book is an in-depth study of muqarnas, a computer algorithm for its generation, and a source for new evolutionary steps.
It presents a comprehensive definition, a study of muqarnas terminology, etymology, origin, geometry, design process, data structure, and computer-module design.
It is an original work necessary for all interested in Islamic art and architecture.

The accompanying CD contains:
  • A separate on-line study of a special type of muqarnas (SGMD) along with software for its creation written in AutoLISP T.
  • A short on-line course on muqarnas, with many virtual worlds.
  • Many muqarnas images, DXF, and VRML files.
To order online:

Phoibos Verlag
Mag. Roman Jacobek
Anzengrubergasse 19/14
A-1050 Wien / AUSTRIA


This thesis is an attempt to analyze the muqarnas phenomenon, establishing it as a distinct field and to design a computer algorithm for muqarnas generation system. It is divided into two parts as such.

The first part starts with a review of the terms used to describe muqarnas along with the etymology of the word. It presents a new comprehensive definition for muqarnas (that is both inclusive and generic), and discusses its origin (formally, geographically, and chronologically).

It categorizes the values of the muqarnas criterion either as characteristics (constant values for all muqarnas forms) or attributes (values that vary according to the type). Their different aspects are identified, defined, and extensively analyzed. This concept of characteristics and attributes constitutes the tools for further typological studies, which are suggested as the means to arrive at the final evolution map of muqarnas.

The first part ends with a five-step model for the muqarnas design process.

The second part recognizes the needs for a muqarnas computer generation system, discusses its module design in relation to the design process, and suggests the data structure for any muqarnas form in correspondence to the issues analyzed in the first part. The second part ends by suggesting new contemporary steps in the evolution of muqarnas forms.

All issues discussed in this thesis are the result of an original work conducted by the author unless specified otherwise.

"The Muqarnas Pre-designed Erecting Units: Analysis, Definition of the Generic Set of Units, and a System of Unit-Creation as a New Evolutionary Step."
Architectural Science Review, vol.44, No. 3 Sep. 2001

The muqarnas is an architectural form developed and used in Islamic architecture over the last millennium. In short it can be defined as: a three-dimensional form, whose visual function is the gradual transition between two levels, two sizes, and or two shapes.

One of the methods of its production, which prevailed in the Islamic western lands, involved the use of certain sets of pre-designed units, that when combined in different ways generate a very wide range of alternatives. The plans of these units are based on shapes of 45-, 90-, 135- degrees. Thus, they are limited in their final output; and their innovativeness was long lost accordingly.

The main objective of this paper is to create a new set (or sets) of units that belong to the same logic of these described but overcome their limitations.

The method is first to analyze the available units, second to reach the minimum number of units that can be considered as the generic units, third to synthesize their origin of creation (as it is not found in any literature) and thus creating a system of unit-generation, and finally to create the new sets of units. These sets can be considered as a new evolutionary step of the muqarnas of this type.

Accordingly, a computer program for the unit creation was created to test and evaluate the concepts presented in the paper.

"Teaching Architectural-Visual-Experience Through Virtual Reality Using VRML: Muqarnas Example."
Journal of King Abdulaziz University (Environmental Design Sciences) Vol. 1 2003
The Proceedings of the Symposium on the Development of Engineering and Environmental Design Education, College of Engineering and College of Environmental Design - King Abdulaziz Univesity-Jeddah-Saudi Arabia 12-14 Feb.

Besides the possibility of replacing the conventional methods of teaching (in part or in whole) virtual reality opens wide a possibility of teaching one aspect of architecture that we are, still, not capable of fully teaching, visual-experience.

Visual experience is a part of the architectural education that educators try to incorporate in many levels and courses (like sketching, 3D drawings and model-making in design courses; and videos, slides, models, and field-trips in history courses).

The scope of this paper falls in the architectural history category with muqarnas being its specific topic. Muqarnas is usually looked upon as complicated and as very difficult to understand. The conventional methods of its teaching include photographs, plans, elevations, 3D drawings, and videos.

This research creates an online course on muqarnas that includes many virtual worlds in VRML and compares them as to current available conventional methods of form teaching. The course is preliminary evaluated, which concluded that the course should be enhanced, a large-scale survey should be conducted, and that VR experience have a better role in form teaching than the conventional methods. Finally, this paper represents a call for the adoption of VR as a new tool to help satisfy the goals of architectural education.

"Decoding the Two-dimensional Pattern Found at Takht-i Sulayman into Three-dimensional Muqarnas Forms."
Iran, XXXVIII 2000

The purpose of this paper is to propose new three-dimensional translations of the two-dimensional plan of a muqarnas found incised on a plaster slab, discovered in Takht-i Sulayman, Iran, and studied and analysed by Ulrich Harb. Harb proposed a three-dimensional interpretation, but this does not match the general historical context suggested by the contemporary examples of muqarnas forms, nor does it match the logic of the composition suggested by the two-dimensional plan. New three-dimensional decodings of the plan are therefore proposed. The method used by this paper is proposed as a model for later studies concerning the decoding of similar historical patterns.

"Arch-Creating Software."
Journal of King Saud University-Architecture and Planning, vol. 12 2000


The arch is an important architectural design element. Its production can be a long and tedious process of design, calculations, drafting, adjustments, construction drawings production and other tasks. This paper establishes the foundations for arch-creating software that reduces the time needed for producing the arch and enhances the quality of the arch designed by allowing a wide variety of arches for the architect to choose from.

First, it defines the full range of arch types which it will cover, finds the common parts that are shared by sub-groups of these arches as well as the singular parts, applies the historical concepts of distortions (an approach that enabled this paper to create totally new types of arches as one of its major contributions to this field), defines the variable set for each arch type, and discusses its relevant geometry. Finally, it decides on the most suitable environment for such a program. Due to the fact that an arch is only a part of an architectural drawing, there was a need for an environment that provides capabilities to draw the other necessary parts andto which the arch program can be integrated. This dictated the AutoCAD environment, which provides both a programming language (AutoLISP, which is a special dialect of the Lisp language) and the ability to draw any item needed. All of the arch drawings presented in this paper were created via software written according to the basis it establishes. These play the role of a proof to the theory of the paper.

"Structural Genuine Muqarnas Dome: Definition, Unit Analysis, and a Computer Generation System."
Journal of King Saud University, vol. 10, Architecture and Planning 1998


One way to understand the muqarans phenomenon is by establishing types according to some attribute values, analysis of which, as well as those found common to the type, in relation to other similar studies would later explain issues of form evolution, origin,...etc. This paper represents one such study. It is divided into three parts. The first defines "Structural Genuine-Muqarnas Dome" as a distinct type, that has been included along with other types under "muqarnas dome". The second analyses this type's unit system. The third presents an algorithm of a computer generation system for this type, its advantages, and some outputs of a test program.

Muqarnas Homepage
Historical Muqarnas Homepage

Author's CV - Contact the Author