The ambiguous veil: On transparency, the mashrabiy'ya, and architecture

Bechir Kenzari, Yasser Elsheshtawy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Architectural Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Education
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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