Modern Mashrabiyas with High-tech Daylight Responsive Systems

Yasmin M. El Semary, Hany Attalla, Iman Gawad

The environmental and social role of closed oriental balconies (Mashrabiyas) remains a significant vernacular aspect of Middle Eastern architecture. However, nowadays this traditional Islamic window element with its characteristic latticework is used to cover entire buildings as an oriental ornament, providing local identity and a sun-shading device for cooling. In fact, designers have reinvented this vernacular Islamic wooden structure into high-tech responsive daylight systems – often on a massive scale and using computer technology – not only to cover tall buildings as an oriental ornament, but also as a major responsive daylight system.

It is possible to use the traditional architectural Islamic elements of the Middle East for problem solving design solutions in present-day architecture. The potential for achieving these solutions lies in the effective combination of the design concepts of the traditional elements with new smart materials and technologies. Hence, modern mashrabiyas could be a major responsive daylight system. Contextual information drawn from relevant theory, ethnography and practice is used to form a methodological framework for the modern mashrabiyas with high-tech responsive daylight systems. The main results set boundaries for the viability of computer technology to produce mashrabiyas and promote a sustainable way of reviving their  use within Middle Eastern buildings.


Mashrabiya, Kinetic Façade, Intelligent Building Skin, Responsive envelope, Daylight systems.


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