The Ambiguous Veil: On Transparency, the Mashrabiy'ya, and Architecture



Transparency without a glazed medium can be found in the Middle Eastern device of the mashrabiy'ya. Promoted by Orientalism as a typical Eastern motif, it has slowly become a mark of subjugation and confinement. The logic of the mashrabiy'ya permits other interpretations, however. By trying to etymologically and historically link it to weaving and holiness, to the veil and its uplifting, to the gaze and its subtleties, an attempt is made here to liberate this device from excessive interpretations and to present it as an architectural motif that involves a motivated perception of different spatial locations, a viewpoint, a stand, and an intention. Thus, the mashrabiy'ya becomes closely linked to phenomenological transparency.