Town Zone

The shared heritage of architecture between the modern world and Muslim civilisation

16th century town plan of Diyarbakir

Domes, vaults, arches and towers… the architecture of Muslim civilisation demonstrated a huge variety of new ideas, many of which were re-used and adapted all over the world. In this zone of the exhibition, explore the lasting legacy of the interchange of ideas between East and West over hundreds of years.

Did you know


...that a thousand-year-old tower in Algeria may have been the inspiration for the spires and towers of European churches?

...that the luxurious spas we know today were already popular in Muslim civilisation in the 10th century?

...that tulips, carnations and irises came from Middle Eastern gardens to Europe in the 11th century?

In this zone:

  • Meet master-architect Sinan in our film, who built the earthquake-resistant Suleymaniye Mosque in 16th-century Istanbul, designing the interior with a filter room to cleanse smoke from the air and collect the soot for ink-making
  • Handle an interactive model showing that the intricate rose stained-glass windows of European churches may have been influenced by 8th-century palace windows in Muslim lands
  • Discover how towns of Muslim civilisation were surprisingly advanced, with paved roads, litter collection, covered sewers, and in Cordoba, even street lighting
  • Find out about town planning a thousand years ago, in which public life centred around the mosque, market and public baths, with residential surrounding areas
  • Investigate how you could tell the time from the Lions Fountain in the 14th-century Alhambra Palace in Muslim Spain
  • See how Roman domes became popular in important buildings across Muslim civilisation and how Islamic architecture influenced Church buildings and other structures like the Brighton Royal Pavilion
  • Discover how new ideas in design, architecture and gardening spread across the world because of events like royal marriages as well as through times of conflict and conquest
  • Explore an interactive touch-screen exhibit about the architectural influence of the East on the development of arches and vaults
  • Use a touch-screen exhibit exploring the architectural heritage shared between East and West in the spread of structures and decorative techniques
  • See and compare full-size models of key arch shapes developed in Muslim civilisation.