Inspired by the Alhambra: Divine Unity and the Order of Nature


Calligraphy, Geometry, Lectures, Painting


19 April 2021-
23 April 2021



Bookings for this course are now closed

Springtime Geometry School 2021


We would like to dedicate the Springtime Geometry School to the memory of our esteemed founder and teacher, Professor Keith Critchlow, who died a year ago on April 8th 2020. May God rest his soul.

The Prince’s Foundation School continues to guide and nurture its students according to the profound principles that Professor Critchlow was committed to throughout his life. One of them was the emphasis on the true meaning of education, from the Latin educare, meaning to “draw out”. Like Plato, Professor Critchlow's most treasured teacher, he believed that knowledge was inherent in every one of us: it simply needed a spark to be awakened. For all those fortunate enough to be taught by him, Professor Critchlow was that spark.

“Life is a journey to a greater and greater understanding just as a journey through the Palace of the Alhambra should be – with all its clues and keys to a higher Reality.”

Keith Critchlow, 2006


The Alhambra reflects the Order of Nature in architectural form. Its surfaces and volumes are adorned with light, colour, and poetry, bringing together the three languages of Islamic art – geometry, islimi, and calligraphy – in exquisite unity.

Join us online for a week to explore and contemplate the transcendent beauty of the Alhambra and its gardens. Engage with its proportions and patterns, construct muqarnas, and explore the biomorphic designs spiralling across the walls. Contemplate the symbolism of the Islamic Garden and discover how flowing water was incorporated into the design of the complex. Learn how geometry, biomorph, and calligraphy speak together in unity.

Discover and rediscover this stunning monument of Islamic art through practical drawing exercises, artist demonstrations, lectures, and conversation with experts.

Click here for the full schedule (subject to changes)


Designing Knotwork Patterns

Alan Adams & Ameet Hindocha

A beautiful variety of knotwork patterns are found throughout the Alhambra Palace rendered in a range of materials including woodwork, pierced stone, coloured glass and cut tiles. Explore the system used to develop these patterns by constructing examples from the site. Investigate several permutations of these patterns and learn how they are composed both as pattern fields and as border designs.

The Art of the Nasrids: A History in Ten Objects from the Khalili Collections

Waqas Ahmed

The Alhambra Palace exemplifies the artistic prowess of one of the longest ruling Muslim dynasties on the Iberian Peninsula. Reigning for over 250 years from the establishment of the Emirate of Granada in 1230 to its annexation in 1492, the Nasrids are known in the history of art for their production of magnificent works in various mediums including textiles, metalwork and stoned-carved calligraphy. With the aid of objects from the Khalili Collection of Islamic Art (700-2000) - considered the most diverse and comprehensive collection of Islamic art in existence - Waqās Ahmed will explore the cultural history of the Nasrids, demonstrating how the pluralistic values and spiritual philosophy of this visionary society inspired its creative output. Objects shown include illuminated Qurans, architectural features and a Judeo-Arab astrolabe.

Calligraphy & the Alhambra

Dr Bilal Badat

The art of calligraphy is particularly venerated throughout the Islamic world, with rich expression found in its diverse scripts throughout history. Despite the importance of the Alhambra to the history of Islamic visual culture, the calligraphic inscriptions found throughout the palaces have only recently become the focus of systematic study. This lecture investigates the role of calligraphy in the art and architecture of the Alhambra by exploring the aesthetic, political, poetic, and spiritual meanings they embody and express. It also introduces the main scripts and types of writing and examines the broader context and place of calligraphy in Islamic culture.

Water in the Islamic Garden

Emma Clark

The apparently endlessly flowing water in the courtyards and gardens of the Alhambra and Generalife are some of the most evocative representations of the Islamic Gardens of Paradise anywhere in the world. The sound of water not only muffles the voices of other people but has the miraculous effect of silencing one's own thoughts; one’s heart and mind become still and calm and we may be fortunate enough to experience a taste (dhawq) of the peace of the true Paradise gardens where the only word spoken is Salaam, Peace.

This illustrated talk will look at the design, significance and spiritual symbolism of water in the Islamic garden, showing images of Islamic gardens across the world, in particular those at the Alhambra and Generalife.

Microcosm and macrocosm: a dual-level pattern from the Mirador of Lindaraja

Lisa DeLong

A small, windowed chamber, best known as the Mirador of Lindaraja, overlooks one of the Alhambra’s many fountained courtyards. This richly decorated niche contains some of the finest surviving examples of craftmanship in the Alhambra: stained glass panels, carved stucco adorned with flowers and Ibn Zamrak’s poetic verses, and exceptionally complex examples of ceramic geometric tilework. This session focuses on the two exquisite alicatados panels flanking the entrance to the mirador. We will explore the fractal-like complexity of dual-level patterns and discover how the relationship of a square and its diagonal (the √2 proportion) governs the overall design, the individual shapes, and even the thickness of the woven pathways. Time permitting, we will also investigate related geometries from the Court of Myrtles and the Hall of the Ambassadors.

Proportions and Patterns of the Portal Oratory

Katya Nosyreva

The Portal Oratory, also known as the ‘Tower of the Miḥrāb’, is a small, rectangular tower located between the Alhambra’s Nasrid Palaces and the Generalife Gardens. Often overlooked by visitors, its liturgical purpose and the peripheral location between the static architectural spaces of the palaces and the flowing nature of the gardens is what endows it with significance.

The interior of the tower is divided into two chambers, an anteroom and the inner room housing an exquisite, precisely-oriented horseshoe-arch miḥrāb, decorated with stunning carved stucco biomorphic motifs and a wide range of calligraphic inscriptions. 

This session explores the importance of proportion in architectural compositions through geometric analysis of the miḥrāb wall of the Portal Oratory. Investigate the geometric patterns in the window-grilles above the miḥrāb, which integrate the proportions of the architectural space of the Oratory with other ornamental patterns of the Alhambra.

The Visual Languages of Islamic Art

Ramiz Sabbagh

The Alhambra complex is a jewel of Islamic Iberian Heritage and showcases the beautiful, harmonic, and symbolic integration of three principal visual languages of Islamic art: Arabic calligraphy, biomorphic ornamentation and geometric design. Martin Lings likened these expressions to the knowledge, the love, and the fear of God.

This session introduces the geometric basis for a design that will be developed throughout the week and further enhanced with stylised Kufic calligraphy and biomorphic design.

Muqarnas: Origin, Symbolism & Design Principles

Joachim Tantau

Titus Burckhardt compares muqarnas to “a honeycomb whose honey consisted of light itself.”

These stalactite-like three dimensional forms ornament the ceilings, arches and pillars of the Alhambra. Investigate their historic development as an architectural language, their symbolism in the traditional Islamic philosophy, and embark on a study of three-dimensional pattern composition. Learn to decipher its shapes and forms through via guided drawing exercises complemented by building exercises with paper models.

Principles of the Arch: An Exploration of the Puerta del Vino

Simon Trethewey

A majestic arch, now commonly referred to as the "Wine Gate,” welcomes visitors to the Alhambra Complex. Beautiful ceramic tiles with flowing islimi forms decorate its spandrels.

The Puerta del Vino focuses the week’s discussion of arch construction and the decoration of spandrels with islimi or arabesque patterns in ceramics or carved plaster. Gain insight into the methods for designing and building arch structures in brick, stone and ceramics. Explore the profound geometric order in both its east and west aspects and discover how these arch spandrels can be filled with decorative elements using proportional harmonics.


Alan Adams

Alan Adams retired in 2008 to pursue a lifelong interest in understanding the structure of Islamic geometric art, particularly the stunning executions in wood of the Mamluks. A grounding in technical drawing from years as a draftsman, before the introduction of CAD, and a career as a scientist served as a foundation for a self-taught path. As an independent student it was clear that there was no good founding text to guide the way. A community Facebook page was established in February of 2014 to share the knowledge, questions, and discoveries of his and of the thousands of members’ individual journeys of discovery; “Drawing Islamic Geometric Designs.” Many helpful contributions from experts and novices have made it a very interesting forum. Lessons in the technicalities of drawing, answers to specific questions, and discussions of the geometric foundations of designs are common exchanges. The ideal end of Alan’s journey would be to master the Mamluk art of wooden panel construction in intricate pattern and to describe it in an English language publication. 

Waqas Ahmed

Waqas Ahmed is Artistic Director at the Khalili Collections, where his work includes leading a major art digitisation project in partnership with Google, Wikimedia and Europeana. Himself a visual artist and historian, his research focuses on the historical exchange between Western and non-Western art. He is currently Visiting Fellow at the Open University and Assistant Professor at the London Interdisciplinary School. Waqās is also author of The Polymath (Wiley 2019), creator of the Polymath Festival and founder of The DaVinci Network. He is on the Steering Panel of Art UK and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Bilal Badat

Dr. Bilal Badat is an archaeologist and historian of Islamic art. Bilal completed his masters in Islamic Art and Archaeology at the University of Oxford and wrote his doctorate on the subject of pedagogy and style in Ottoman calligraphy at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, London. As part of his research Bilal undertook a traditional apprenticeship in Islamic calligraphy under the tutelage of Turkish master calligrapher Efdaluddin Kılıç in Istanbul. He previously worked as specialist curator of Islamic art at the British Museum and is currently a teaching fellow at the University of Tübingen, Germany, where he teaches Islamic Art and Architecture and Islamic Calligraphy.

Delfina Bottesini

Delfina Bottesini is an artist and teacher based in London. She holds an MA in Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts from the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts and a BA in Visual Communications from Camberwell College of Art. She practices as a visual artist with a specialisation in painting and handmade ceramic tiles. Delfina’s work reflects her particular interest in geometry and the traditional arts of the world. She currently works as a Project Manager for the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts' Outreach Programme and is the Head of the Open Programme.

Emma Clark

Emma Clark is a garden designer specialising in Islamic gardens and gardens of other traditions. She has recently designed the garden for the new Cambridge Mosque, UK, completed 2019. She is Senior Tutor for Contextual Studies at The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts in London. Emma has published two books on Islamic gardens: The Art of the Islamic Garden (paperback edition 2010), and a monograph, 'Underneath Which Rivers Flow', The Symbolism of the Islamic Garden, (1996). She lectures nationally and internationally and has published many articles on Islamic art and gardens.

Lisa DeLong

Dr Lisa DeLong completed her doctoral studies at the School in 2007 investigating the principles of geometric design in Islamic and Western traditions. She is the author of Curves: Flowers, Foliates and Flourishes in the Formal Decorative Arts. An avid painter, Lisa is also Outreach Programme Manager for the School, designing and conducting educational workshops internationally.

Ameet Hindocha

Ameet Hindocha is an artist and designer with a long-standing interest in mathematics, nature and pattern and their expression in the visual arts. In recent years this has manifested itself in ongoing research and application of geometric principles to a wide variety of media and processes. He also teaches on the Foundation Art & Design Diploma at Camberwell College of Arts.

Katya Nosyreva

Katya Nosyreva, PhD, is a ceramicist, visual artist, and geometer. Living with her family on Dartmoor, UK, she works with porcelain clay and the visual and symbolic language of sacred geometry. Katya’s PhD research (Prince's School of Traditional Arts, 2013) combined her studio practice with geometry. She designed and made an architectural space for a Sufi centre in Delhi, India. This work explored the practice of traditional craft within contemporary Sufism.

During the course of her PhD research, Katya worked with historical manuals and architectural scrolls on practical geometry. These treasures from the medieval Islamic guild-tradition document practical geometric methods and reveal much about historic approaches. In working with these manuals, Dr Nosyreva finds inspiration for the contemporary geometer.


Ramiz Said Sabbagh currently resides and works in Azerbaijan as the Baku Programme Manager for The Prince's School of Traditional Arts. He completed his MA in Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts from the School in 2001. Ramiz has since continued to explore, practice and teach geometry and its practical application in design extensively in the Middle East, Azerbaijan as well as China.

Joachim Tantau

Joachim Tantau is a cabinetmaker and designer. He graduated from The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts in 2013 where he received the Barakat Prize for his research into the geometry and design principles of Andalusian Muqarnas.

He currently runs a studio in Hamburg, Germany where he produces bespoke furniture and objects d’art. Joachim also teaches workshops on marquetry and woodworking techniques in the UK, Egypt, Spain and Azerbaijan.

Simon Trethewey

Simon Trethewey is Director of Studies for the MA program at The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts. He studied at the Royal College of Art in the Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts department with Professor Keith Critchlow and Paul Marchant, graduating with Distinction in 1991. Using the universal language of geometry as source and inspiration, Simon worked for many years as a painter in the medium of egg tempera on gesso. He also works in ceramics and stained glass, designing for a contemporary architectural context. He has exhibited internationally, notably with the British Council in New Delhi and Mumbai where he was a Commonwealth Scholar. Simon's recent research explores the cosmological proportions found in ancient cultures. This geometry's timeless relevance forms the basis of teaching materials presented as part of the MA programme. In the practice of traditional arts, these same principles are essential components of design.

Further presenters to be confirmed.

Who is this programme for?

Some knowledge of geometry will be useful, but all are welcome to attend. You must be aged 18 or over to participate in our online programmes.

What days do I attend?

Monday - Friday, 19-23 April 2021

How do I participate?

Sessions will be taught live via Zoom; all sessions will be recorded, meaning you can join us from wherever you are in the world!

The Springtime School will be supported by an online learning environment, Thinkific, where students can watch event recordings, explore additional materials and interact with experts and fellow participants throughout the week.

What materials do I need?

Materials will be specified well in advance of the start date.

Do you offer concessions?

Full-time students and OAPS can apply for a 15% discount.

MA/MPhil/PhD graduates of The Prince's Foundation School of Traditional Arts are also eligible for concessions.

Concessions cannot be applied in retrospect. To receive a concession, please apply via our online form. We will then send you a discount code to use when booking your space.

What if I need to change or cancel my booking?

No refunds, unless cancelled by the School. If you cancel up to 1 week before the workshop starts, we can offer a transfer to another workshop of equivalent value, subject to availability.

Can I buy recordings instead of attending?

No. We encourage you to attend the course in real time to really benefit from instruction. Students on the course can watch recordings of each session on our online learning platform for a limited time.

Recordings cannot be purchased separately if the course is fully booked or if the course has already started.


You must download the Zoom app and create a free account before the class begins, so that you can use the full range of features:

  • You can create your free account here

  • You can download the Zoom app onto your computer or device here

Tutor Biographies