Architectural monuments of the Near and Middle East amaze with their proportions and geometrical harmony as well as with the philosophical approach to design.

Since the 9th century when Islam came to Central Asia, the libraries and educational institutions — madrasah have being constructed in plenty. Libraries were often established at residences of governors of Bukhara, Samarkand, Merv, Urgench and other big cities. They were especially numerous in Bukhara. We know about the rich library of the Samanids (1, p. 151). The library of the 10th -14th centuries was located in the square room equipped with book shelves and seats for readers. If to look at the library from a distance it was possible to see that the portal part outstands. The upper part of portal is faced with glazed tiles that creates integrity of design due vegetative patterns and Arabian inscriptions quoting Koran or hadith. Usually they contain first five ayats from sura of «Clot». For example: «Read, in God’s name who created. He created a man from a clot of blood. Read, in fact your God is the most magnanimous. He taught a man to everything a man did not know by means of writing stick». The inscriptions quoted from hadith of prophet Muhammad who spoke: «Knowledge is farz (obligatory) for each Muslim man and woman». Glazed tiles with inscriptions were visible from afar and drew attention of people which were passing by. It should be noted that in that period it was new in decoration of facades, and besides that propagated importance of knowledge.

Different methods were used for exterior d?cor of facades. For example, artistic bricklaying created geometrical patterns, and glazed tiles imitated natural plants. Masters of ganch made stalactites which contrasted a color of plaster and were visible from afar. All that caused positive emotions of a person looking at them. The library harmoniously entered the nature and seemed its reflection. Studying medieval libraries in Central Asia, it is possible to notice that architects paid special attention both to functional features of a building and to its balance with environment.

Development of art, culture and architecture in the 13th century was promoted by Amir Temur who brought the best specialists from many lands to Samarkand and Bukhara. Bibliophile A.I. Kormilitsyn noted that talented scientists worked in Samarkand and Bukhara as well as the libraries contained valuable books.

At reign of the Temurids the libraries operated together with madrasah, many of which were constructed in that period. The grandson of Amir Temur Ulugbeg paid much attention to exterior d?cor of the buildings, especially their facades. Careful examination of exterior decor showed a balance of ornaments and natural environment as well as good geometric proportions. The basic geometrical proportions and canons of Ulugbeg’s madrasah in Ghijduvan are identical with Bukhara and Samarkand madrasah (2, p. 63). Madrasah and libraries of that time were based on thorough geometrical calculations and, at the same time, looked very simple outside. First of all, architects designated location of a library in the city. That played important role in visiting by readers. In the 10th — 14th centuries location of the library building and its decor, including paintings and inscriptions were thought over thoroughly. In Bukhara libraries were placed near or inside madrasah. It was calculated to a person who came to the library but could not read well or did not know some language, or had difficulties to understand some terms. In the library he could get the qualified consultations. The library usually consisted of a public room; rooms of translators, copyists, bookbinders, service personnel; book-depositories and a reading room (3, p. 116). If to look at the library of Ulugbeg in Samarkand from afar, it is possible to see geometrical patterns, but approaching you find out that these are Arabian inscriptions.

The library of Ulugbeg is decorated with ganch, artistic bricklaying, glazed tiles and paintings. The artists used mainly dark blue, green and blue colors for decoration of facade and exterior decor in general. The interior of library was done in very light colors. We wanted to understand why interiors of libraries were solved in light colors and carefully studying archival materials we found out that Ulugbeg approached to architecture philosophically. A person attracted by beautiful building, inscriptions and unusual color came into the library where books were in focus and nothing in interior distracted attention from the books. It was a purpose of miniaturists, translators, philologists and other specialists working for the library. A book in their hands turned into a piece of art and drew attention of readers. That resulted in growing number of readers wanting to read books and acquire knowledge.

In order to concentrate attention of readers and improve perception of information, Ulugbeg provided small rooms for readers — 4×3 m. Rooms were located board by board. Books in rooms were classified thematically. Ibn Sina who visited the library in Samarkand wrote: «I came into the building where were many small rooms which were divided thematically. The books were stored in chests supplied with lists of books inside» (4, p. 10).

The room for readers was from 2 up to 3 m at height. The window was located opposite to the entrance door at human height. In order to prevent direct solar beams, windows were screened with panjara which also prevented readers to distract the attention. The window located highly carried out also ventilating function. That was important in our hot climatic zone. As it was already mentioned above, reading rooms were small and painted in white color that became an example for other Central Asian libraries. For example, the library in Bukhara at madrasah of Ulugbeg, the library at madrasah of Caliph Niyozkul (1807) (its entrance is known as «Chor Minor»), the library at madrasah of Ulugbeg in Ghijduvan and others. How much comfortable was such planning of libraries in Central Asia in the 14th century is proved by the following example. In the 18th century, in England, the library of British Museum, one of the biggest in the world, was constructed. It had a huge reading room under the big dome (5 p. 49). Readers of the library often complained that such big room disturbed reading and concentration because of noise from numerous readers. Besides that, beautiful decor from various ornaments, bright colors and gypsum details gave significance of historical value. That resulted in visiting of numerous tourists which today continue disturb reading. Readers consider that a reading room must be of small size, walls should be white and simply decorated. In this case a reader can adopt up to 60 — 80 % of information.

Thus, the concept of «national architecture» is directly connected with climatic, religious and other factors. The libraries constructed in the 14th century in Central Asia, a small number of windows faced the street is typical. Windows mainly faced the courtyard. The portal part of library was two-storey with ganch panjara in the center which served as airshaft and simultaneously decorated the facade of the library.


  1. Узбекистон миллий энциклопедияси. 5-жилд. Тошкент, 2003.
  2. Уз Р. Тарихий ёдгорликларни химоялаш бош армаси архиви Б 6189/м-63. Предварительные работы по комплексу медресе Улугбека в г. Гиждуване. Тошкент. 1991.
  3. Аkмад Муkаммад Мубашшир Аkмад. Ислом kазораси. Тошкент. 2004.
  4. А. И. Кормилицын. Рукописные коллекции и библиотеки на территории Узбекистана средневековья. Ташкент, 1993.вековья. Ташкент, 1993.
  5. Пащенко Ф. Н. «Архитектура и строительство библиотечных зданий». М., 1941.

Aziz Umarov