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Parsons School of Design MFA Lighting Design program theses2007 (PC020404.06) ➔ Moucharabieh: From Tradition to Modernity from a Window Treatment to a Façade Treatment


Related people/organizations

Cherine Mounir Saroufim (designer)
Nathalie Rozot (thesis advisor)
Derek Porter (thesis advisor)




In a world heading towards energy crises, it is our responsibility to take matters into our hands and try as much as possible to find sustainable solutions.

Throughout time, the Arabs have used in their architecture many techniques that controlled daylight thus contributing in lowering the energy consumption. My thesis project plans to research this topic to have a better understanding, developing and innovating the usage of these "moucharabieh" and create a system that suits the needs of our modern society.

With my research I will bring attention to this forgotten science and art through the examination of different regional styles of Arabic architecture. I will get a closer look at the Egyptian, Lebanese, Moroccan and Yemenite architecture; all of them fluent users of the moucharabieh but adapted to the needs, geography and inspiration enabled by their different invasions.

Parallel to that, I will look into the new technologies of Daylighting, louver systems and facades treatments. I will also look into the new materials and usages, from the latest design trends to their application, technologies to esthetics.

As a designer, the following questions drive my work: How do we merge tradition and modernity? How do we keep the Arab identity without looking staged or out of place, while still having a “modern approach” that reflects our contemporary society? My thesis argues that our traditional architecture, while answering to all the constraints of our terrain and the cultural needs of our society, meets the requirements of a fast track modern world. It answers our energy consumption concerns and, with some innovation, it can offer inspiration to any European or American architecture.

My Thesis objectives are on one hand to find solutions or a path that would resolve the architectural identity crises that the Middle-East is facing. And on the other hand to shift the tendency of an importing middle-eastern situation in the field of architecture and art to an exporting one.

To achieve the objectives of my thesis I have created a modular façade treatment inspired by the moucharabieh. It is a product derived from the reinterpretation of the Moucharabieh as a technique rather than an esthetic. The goal of this system is to be as flexible and diverse as possible in order for the architect to integrate it in his work and adapt it to his own style.

My aim is to promote the Moucharabieh as and industrial object yet very decorative, as a screen rather than a wall. It will be the product derived by the reinterpretation of the Moucharabieh as a technique rather than an esthetic.

By filtering the sun, the moucharabieh works as an active part of the architecture. The light dissolves the volumes, the walls work essentially as filter or mirrors. « L’architecture est le jeu savant, correct et magnifique des volumes assembles sous la lumière» used to say Le Corbusier. I will also look into Le Corbusier’s use of daylighting inspired by Arab architecture.

From now on, light will be a raw material of architecture. A light that is diffracted, reflected, fragmented and then recomposed. A light that is created, drawn, that changes the space, revives it. A light that creates an architecture of which the substance becomes more subtle, more spiritual, mass deprived.



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