Course 4.611/4.613:













Department of Architecture
4.611/13 Civic Architecture in Islamic History (HASS)


Instructor: Nasser Rabbat
Class Requirements: Three short papers (7-9 pp. 20% of the final grade each) and two class presentations for undergraduates (15% of the final grade each + 10% participation in discussion). Short papers may be substituted by a research paper for graduate students on a topic to be discussed with the instructor and to be presented in class.


Not only a major monotheistic religion professed by one-sixth of the human race, Islam is also an active historical force that produced a multitude of cultures and empires with a distinct civilizational flavor that permeated even the most mundane functions in every Islamic society.  In this course we will focus on the architecture that embodies these societal functions: the palatial, commercial, military, industrial, residential and landscape architecture, in addition to a number of little-understood monuments that stand midway between the religious and the profane realms.  We will use the chronological survey format to examine distinctive types of civil Islamic architecture from the seventh to the twentieth century and analyze the urban, social, and political factors that shaped their particular contexts.  In our investigations, we will not only consult modern studies on the buildings and their histories, but we will try to see them through the experiences of their contemporaries and actual users.  We will also assess the formation and developments of architectural traditions, their regional transformations, and the various external and interregional influences that affected them at different historical junctions. 
The class is open to both graduates and undergraduates.  Classes alternate between lectures and discussion sessions at the rate of 3 or 4 lectures to 1 discussion.  

George Michell, ed. Architecture of the Islamic World: Its History and Social Meaning,  London: Thames and Hudson, 1978 [reprint 1984].
Richard Ettinghausen, Oleg Grabar, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina. The Art and Architecture of Islam: 650-1250. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001. Ars Orientalis vol. 23 (1993) (special issue, Pre-Modern Islamic Palaces).
Robert Irwin, Islamic Art in Context: Art, Architecture and the Literary World. New York, 1997.
Books are on reserve at Rotch Library.  Articles are collected in a reader at Rotch.


Background: Brief introduction to the foundation of Islam in Arabia. Geographical survey of the Islamic World.
Methodology: Thematic but chronologically arranged
Ernst J. Grube, "What is Islamic Architecture?" in Michell, Architecture of the Islamic World: 11-14.

2-Precedents and prototypes:
The tent: the dwelling of the nomad.
Mesopotamian, Parthian, and Sassanian prototypes.
Levantine Arabian andSouth-Arabian influences.
Byzantine, Greco-Roman, and Hellenistic prototypes.
Film: Five Millenia Mesopotamian architectural heritage(26 min.), Summary:  Explores the architectural and cultural history of ancient Mesopotamia, as revealed through archaeological discoveries based in its major extinct cities. The origins, basic motifs, and lasting influences of Islamic architecture are highlighted.
Ettinghausen and Grabar, 3-12.
Irwin, Islamic Art in Context, 17-36.
Article "Iwan", Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd edition, 4: 287-9.

3- Early urban settlements:
Settlements in Arabia: Mecca, Medina: The House of the Prophet at Medina. The first garrison towns of Islam: Kufa, Basra, Fustat, Qayrawan.
Nasser Rabbat, "In the Beginning Was the House: On the Image of the Two Noble Sanctuaries of Islam," Thresholds 25 (Fall 2002): 56-59.
Nezar AlSayyad, "Urban Creations of the Early Muslim Arabs; The Garrison Town as a Prototype," Cities and Caliphs,  44-76.
Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd edition, articles on Basra, Kufa, and Kairawan.

4- Discussion: The Settings of the Nascent Islamic Architecture
Film: The history of Islam (53 min.): Discusses the history of the emergence of Islam and its impact on civilization
First Paper Assignment.
Grabar, The Formation of Islamic Art. 19-44.


5- Early Umayyad architecture.
Caliphal and Regional Palaces.
Mosaics of the Damascus Mosque: Representations of ideal-types residences.

Grabar, The Formation of Islamic Art, 48-67.
Klaus Brisch, "Observations on the Iconography of the Mosaics in the Great Mosque at Damascus," in P. Soucek ed., Content and Context of Visual Arts in the Islamic World, 13-20.

6-Umayyad palaces: architecture, iconography and decoration.
Ettinghausen and Grabar,36-50.
Grabar, The Formation of Islamic Art, 141-64, "The Art of the Court."

7- Abbasid Architecture.
Baghdad: The Capital of an Empire.
Imperial Samarra: Caliphal palaces and guards houses.
Ettinghausen and Grabar, 51-59.
AlSayyad, "Planned Capital Cities," Cities and Caliphs, 114-33.
Alastair Northedge, "An Interpretation of the Palace of the Caliph at Samarra (Dar al-Khilafa or Jawsaq al-Khaqani)," Ars orientalis 23 (1993): 143-170.

8- Fustat and Cairo.
The Nilometer.
Fustat Houses: the Samarra model.
Cairo: The royal residence of the Fatimid Caliphs.
AlSayyad, Cities and Caliphs, 133-58.
Paula Sanders, Rituals, Politics and the City in Fatimid Cairo. (N.Y., 1994), 39-67.

9-Discussion: City, Palace, and the Representation of Imperial Order
Irwin, Islamic Art in Context, “Palace Life,”
Saleh Ahmad El-Ali, "The Foundation of Baghdad," in A. Hourani and S. Stern, The Islamic City: A Colloqium. (Oxford, 1970), 87-101. 
Jacob Lassner, "The Caliph's Personal Domain, The City Plan of Baghdad Re-Examined," in A. Hourani and S. Stern, The Islamic City: A Colloqium. (Oxford, 1970), 103-18. 


10- Markets and Caravanserais:
The hostels of the great trading routes.
Urban Types.
Eleanor Sims, "Markets and Caravanserais," in G. Michell, Architecture of the Islamic World, 97-111.
Natalia Ribas-Mateos, "Revising Migratory Contexts: The Mediterranean Caravanserai". In The Mediterranean Passage: Migration and New Cultural Encounters in Southern Europe ed. Russell King (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2001), 22-40.
First Paper Due.

11-The Royal Residence in North Africa, Sicily and Spain: The Alhambra in Granada.
N.B. Rotch Library has a copy of the magnificent book on Alhambra by Owen Jones and Goury, in Limited Access. Check it if you can.
Film: Alhambra Palace (5 min), Videotape showing the Alhambra Palace by Camila Chaves Cortes
D. F. Ruggles, "Vision and Power at the Qala Bani Hammad in Islamic North Africa," Journal of Garden History 14, (1) (Jan 1994): 28-41.
Oleg Grabar, The Alhambra, chapters 2 and 3, 25-114.
Second Paper Assignment.

12-The Hispano-Islamic Villa: The Islamic Versions of the Villa Urbana and Villa Rustica.
Oleg Grabar, The Alhambra, 115-32
James Dickie, "The Islamic Garden in Spain," in: E. MacDougall, The Islamic Garden, 87-105.
Gordon Taylor, and Guy Cooper, Paradise remade: [the alhambra, granada, spain]. Garden Design (May 2000): 66-77.

13-Discussion and first presentation in class.
Al-Andalus in Today's Imaginary.
Film: Al Andalus (35 min.), Shows the influence of the Moors on Spain and the world as seen in art and architecture which was created in Andalusia.
David Kuhrt, Contemplating al-Andalus. Arts & the Islamic world 31 (Summer 1997): 17-24.
Maria Rosa Menocal, "Epilogue: Andalusian Shards," The Ornament of the World (Boston, 2002), 266-83.
MilesDanby, Moorish Style (London, 1995), 7-19.

March 28 and 30: Spring Break

14-The Citadel as Royal Residence:
Oleg Grabar, "The Architecture of Power: Palaces, Citadels and Fortifications," in G. Michell, Architecture of the Islamic World, 65-79.  Jere Bacharach, "The Court-Citadel: An Islamic Urban Symbol of Power," In: T. Yukawa, The Proceedings of International Conference on Urbanism in Islam (ICUIT), 206-45.

15-Palaces of Justice: The Image of the Ruler
Nasser Rabbat, "The Ideological Significance of the Dar al-‘Adl in the Medieval Islamic Orient." International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 27, 1 (Feb 1995): 3-28
Nasser Rabbat, "The Militarization of Taste in Medieval Bilad al-Sham,' in Muslim Military Architecture in Greater Syria from the Coming of Islam to the Ottoman Period, Hugh Kennedy, ed. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2005), 84-105.
Yasser Tabbaa, "Circles of Power: Palace, Citadel, and City in Ayyubid Aleppo." Ars Orientalis 23 (1993): 181-200.


16-Creation of an Ottoman Palace: The Topkapi in Istanbul.
Second Paper Due.
Godfrey Goodwin, A History of Ottoman Architecture,131-38, 321-30.
Gulru Necipoglu, "Framing the Gaze in Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Palaces," Ars Orientalis 23 (1993): 303-26.

17-The Mughal Royal Palaces: Fatehpur Sikri.
Third Paper Assignment.
Brand and Lowry, Akbar’s India: Art From The Mughal City of Victory (New York,1985), 35-54.
Attilio Petruccioli, "The Geometry of Power: The City's Planning," in Brand and Lowry, Fatehpur-Sikri, 50-64.

April 18: Presidents Day vacation

18-The Mughal Gardens and pavilions: The Palaces of Kashmir.
James Dickie, (Yaqub Zaki) "The Mughal Garden: Gateway to Paradise," Muqarnas, 3, (1985) 128-37.
Ebba Koch, "Mughal Palace Gardens from Babur to Shah Jahan" (1526-1648). Muqarnas 14 (1997): 143-165.

19-Isfahan: The Palaces of the Safavid Capital: Safavid gardens and garden pavilions.
Donald Wilber, Persian Gardens and Garden Pavilions (Washington, D.C., 1979) 39-53.

20-Late Ottoman residences and pavilions: 18th-20th centuries.
Shirine Hamadeh,  "Ottoman Expressions of Early Modernity and the Inevitable Question of Westernization,” JSAH63, 1 (March 2004): 32-51.
Goodwin, 403-08, 420-27, 429-53.
Barillari and Godoli, Istanbul 19000: Art Nouveau Architecture and Interiors (New York, 1996), 9-32.


Traditional Residential Architecture:
Gholamhossein Memarian, and Frank Edward Brown, " Climate, Culture, and Religion: Aspects of the Traditional Courtyard House in Iran," Journal of architectural and planning research 20, 3 (Autumn 2003): 181-198.
Guy T. Petherbridge, "The House and Society," in G. Michell, Architecture of the Islamic World, 193-204.

22-Discussion and second presentation in class
Public Space in Traditional Urban Settings
Film: Morocco: the past and present of Djemma el Fna (18 min.), captures the sights and sounds of Marrakech's famous square at the crossroad of Arab and Berber culture. Viewer takes a tour with a Moroccan guide who weaves the history of the area with the present in this corner of the Islamic Arab world.

Grabar, "The Architecture of the Middle Eastern City from Past to Present: The Case of the Mosque," In: Ira Lapidus, Middle Eastern Cities: A Symposium. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969), 26-46.
Paul Wheatley, "Levels of Space Awareness in the Traditional Islamic City," Ekistics 253 (Dec 1976): 354-66.

23-Environmental responsivness in traditional architecture.
Michael E. Bonine, "Aridity and Structure: Adaptations of Indigenous Housing in Central Iran," in Clark and Paylore, Desert Housing: Balancing Experience and Technology for Dwelling in Hot Arid Zones, 193-219.
Coles and Jackson. A Windtower House in Dubai
Lisa Heschong, Thermal Delight in Architecture. (skim)

24-Revival of the Vernacular.
William Curtis, Modern Architecture since 1900, chapter 27: Modern Architecture and Developing Countries since 1960.
Eleanor Curtis, "The architect of mud," Metropolis 20, 1 (2000): 91-96.
Khaled Asfour, "Abdel Halim's Cairo Garden an Attempt to "Defrost" History". Mimar 10, 3 (Sept 1990): 72-77.
Third Paper Due.

25-Contemporary Residential Quarters: Examples From The Aga Khan Awards
Film: The Riyadh diplomatic quarter (18 min.) Examines the buildings in the Riyadh diplomatic area.

26-Discussion: Contemporary Cities in the Desert and the Search for Identity
Film: Islam The Search for Identity / a BBC Production (40 min.): Examines Kuwait, Doha and Jeddah, where architects from all over the world are creating universities, parliament buildings and stock exchanges.