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Architectural historicism: the reflection of Western medieval architecture on contemporary churches. Jordan as a case study

Safa A. Alhusban (Architectural Department, Faculty of Engineering, Al al-Bayt University, Mafraq, Jordan)
Ahmad A. Alhusban (Architectural Department, Faculty of Engineering, The Hashemite University, Zarqa, Jordan)
Mohammad-Ward A. Alhusban (Architectural Department, Faculty of Engineering, Al al-Bayt University, Mafraq, Jordan)

Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2044-1266

Article publication date: 7 November 2023

49

Abstract

Purpose

This research purpose was to explore the meaning of historicism, architectural historicism, the architectural attributes, design principles, elements and ornamentations of churches in medieval Western architecture, and how they were reflected in contemporary churches' design in Jordan.

Design/methodology/approach

This research used the historical descriptive–interpretive qualitative research method. Around 24 Western medieval churches were selected, studied and analyzed to explore the common design attributes of each historical era. The design attributes of each era were segmented under three categories: Design principles (plans' typology, facades, shapes, details, composition and building form), design elements (openings, towers and entrances) and ornamentation (sculptures, paintings and interior decoration). Additionally, three modern Jordanian churches were analyzed using the same method to compare with the historical churches through personal observations, field trips, researchers' memories, site visits, archival records, plans, images, books, slides, details and note-making. Different types of evidence were used, such as determinate, contextual and inferential. In addition, different tactics for analysis were used in analyzing the historical churches: site familiarity, use of existing documents, virtual and visual inspection and comparison with conditions elsewhere. Credibility was achieved when the results were reviewed and compared with the original and similar information.

Findings

Early Christian design principles, elements and ornamentations were reflected in Jordanian churches more than in Byzantine, Renaissance, Romanesque and Gothic. The design principles of Western medieval architecture were reflected in the selected Jordanian churches more than in ornamentation and design elements. Moreover, this research found that the highest reflection of Western medieval architecture on Jordanian churches was in designing the plans, which is a basilica with a central nave and aisles followed by opening styles, façade, shapes, entrances design, composition, painting and the minimum reflection was in sculptures. Additionally, there was no reflection on tower design and interior decoration.

Practical implications

This research encourages architects to enhance architectural historicism by focusing on historical styles in contemporary designs and using design elements, principles and decorations of historical styles in medieval architecture to enrich the variety and originality of architectural design and create new modern stylistic architecture. Architectural historicism increases historical self-awareness and helps a generation of architects to answer the question: In what style should be built.

Originality/value

Learning the design principles, not copying the past, is becoming a trend for most architects. Architectural historicism introduces new temporal elements, gives a new meaning and primary function to architecture to become socio-temporal and contextual contrast and reflects the essential points of references of the past through design methodology to express the present. The advantage of this research is to put an end to architects' role in syncretism and subjectivism. Instead, historicism architects equipped with the necessary knowledge and supported by the published research and inventors of historical architecture, can choose, imitate, adapt, borrow and use the correct historical forms that originated in a given period.

Keywords

Citation

Alhusban, S.A., Alhusban, A.A. and Alhusban, M.-W.A. (2023), "Architectural historicism: the reflection of Western medieval architecture on contemporary churches. Jordan as a case study", Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCHMSD-01-2023-0002

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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