Out Of The Archives: Photo Of The Day: Moucharabiehs

Windows at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris
Windows at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris

The Institut du Monde Arabe is an institution in Paris that focuses on the Arab world. The building houses a large library of Arab texts, a large exhibition space, and a cafe on its roof. This bank of windows makes up the south side of the building and the photograph is taken from inside the library.

I spent an afternoon exploring the library, thumbing through books that I couldn’t read because Arabic, unfortunately, is a language I don’t know enough (any) of. I sat for awhile at a table, waiting for the windows to morph into their next few incarnations. From my vantage point, there were only Arab men in the library, and I was probably incredibly out of place, but no one shooed me away.

There are 240 panels that make up this side of the building. All of them are of the same design and are controlled by solar light. These moucharabiehs, unlike their wooden counterparts, adjust open and closed, like a lens on a camera, with the passing light of the sun. The clouds arrive, the moucharabiehs open, the sun comes out and they close accordingly. The geometry of the windows is constantly changing.

Moucharabiehs are used throughout the Islamic and Arab world as a wall that serves as a window. They can soften harsh light coming into a room, increase light into otherwise dark spaces and increase air flow into a room.

Another name for moucharabiehs is fenêtre à jalousies, or jealous windows, because they allow for spying on loved ones, specifically spying on women.

This building was designed by Jean Nouvel, Pierre Soria and the Architecture Studio, in a style that uniquely combined Arab culture and western architecture, and was completed in 1987.

Windows at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris
Windows at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris

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