Expo 2020 Entry portal
Image Credit: Supplied/Expo

Dubai: When you head to the Expo 2020 site, take a close look at the Entry Portals. It features a style of architecture, Mashrabiya, distinctive to the region.

Here’s what you need to know about the Mashrabiya style, and where you can see it beyond the Expo.

What does the word ‘Mashrabiya’ mean?

Image used for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Shutterstock

The term ‘Mashrabiya’ comes from the Arabic word ‘ashrab’, which translates to ‘to drink’. Originally, Mashrabiya  referred to a place you could drink water from earthen pots. Eventually, the meaning changed to a place where people could cool water. The Mashrabiya has an open lattice structure, which helps in the evaporative cooling of a clay pot due to consistent flow of air.

The same technique of cooling was later adapted on a large scale to provide regulated cooling in houses and other buildings, especially during the summer.

How was the Mashrabiya style featured in architecture?

Image used for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Shutterstock

In buildings, wooden Mashrabiya blocks were used to cover large windows, to provide shade from the sun and some privacy. The veils were made with latticework, which are intricate grid-like designs. Eventually, these were substituted for large planks of wood that followed the same make-up. The art style features precise geometric designs.

Where did it originate from?

Image used for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Shutterstock

Mashrabiya as a form of architecture can be traced back to the Coptic churches of Egypt. Initially made with wood, people of ancient Egypt often used this style for their doors and roofs. Over time, the architectural style has evolved from what was once a traditional wooden arrangement into an innovative daylight filtering system using metal.

Mashrabiya at Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 Entry portal
Spot the Expo 2020 logo at angle, when you walk through these lattice gates. Image Credit: Supplied

Asif Khan, a London-based architect who was inspired by the Mashrabiya style of architecture, designed the carbon-fibre Entry Portals to the Expo 2020 venue. The gargantuan gateways are 21-metres high, and allow visitors to walk underneath a lattice canopy on entering from any of the three districts. While the construction is percieved as heavy, it is quite light-weight yet strong.

Where else can I spot this style of architecture?

The Mashrabiya form of architecture has been adapted in to the construction of several buildings in the world. Here's a look at some:

The Louvre Museum's dome in Abu Dhabi is clad with abstract Mashrabiya designs, which to the visitor, can be clearly seen through the rain of light that passes through the surface of the dome. Image Credit: Shutterstock
The Al Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi feature geometrically-designed wooden lattice screens, inspired by the Mashrabiya art form, which are dynamically controlled by the building's management system. These adjustable shades move based on the intensity of the sun, and reduce the penetration of sunlight by 50 per cent, making it an Eco-friendly architectural marvel. Image Credit: Shutterstock
The Arab World Institute in Paris, France features a large metallic screen with dynamic geometric motifs on the outside of the glass building. The motifs open and close depending on the rays of sunlight, in order to control the heat and light entering the building. Image Credit: Shutterstock
Over 420 years old, the Amer Fort has been a popular tourist spot for several years now. The palace features four courtyards, enveloped with rustic latticework for windows, and intricately designed plaques on its doors. Image Credit: Shutterstock

-The writer is an intern with Gulf News.