COURSE CATALOGUE

 

Instructor: Nasser Rabbat

4.611 & 4.613
Civil Architecture in Islamic Historyw
4.612
Islamic Architecture and the Environment
4.614
Religious Architecture and Islamic Cultures
4.615
Architecture of Cairo
4.616
Cultural Signification in Architecture
4.617
Issues in Islamic Urbanism:
The Islamic City:
From an Orientalist Concept to a Contemporary Aspiration

or
Balancing Globalism and Regionalism:
The Orientalist Dream City

or
Balancing Globalism and Regionalism:
The Heart of Doha Project

4.619
Historiography of Islamic Architecture
4.621
Orientalism and Representation
4.628
Modernization and Colonization: Cairo in the Long 19th century

Instructor: Jim Wescoat

4.214J / 11.314J
Workshop: Water, Landscape and Urban Design

4.216 - 11.316

Landscape Heritage Conservation Workshop: Nizamuddin

4.623
Mughal Landscapes: History, Heritage, and Design
4.625J - 11.378J
Water in Environmental History, Policy and Design

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Past Courses
AKPIA@MIT Course Posters

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4.214J / 11.314J (Back to top)
Workshop: Water, Landscape and Urban Design

Instructor: James Wescoat

Description:
Water affects the design of every building, landscape, and city in aesthetic, functional, and symbolic ways. This workshop combines a systematic study of water issues with urban design projects in the U.S. and South Asia. Water has always posed integrative challenges for architects, planners, and engineers; and we will seek to build upon the history of ideas about water in these fields.
In the 21st century, water problems will rival those of the energy sector, as will linkages between water and energy. This workshop seeks to understand how cities in wealthy countries managed to supply their populations, including many low-income residents, with reasonably safe, abundant, inexpensive, and beautiful flows of water during the 20th century - and how those achievements can be adapted for the 21st century.
In the 21 st century U.S. cities will also need to seek lessons from around the world to redesign systems that are aging and inadequate. Our investigations thus begin at home with historical and contemporary water projects in metropolitan Boston. We shift to urban water projects in South Asia, where advances in rainwater harvesting, irrigation management, and water use efficiency warrant comparative study. The workshop will give special attention to the power and pitfalls of comparative inquiry. How can fruitful comparisons be drawn among urban water projects in India, Pakistan, and the U.S.?
Design projects will be chosen based on student interests and the urban case studies. For example, they may include rainwater harvesting, water use efficiency, wastewater reuse, stormwater management, floodplain design, constructed wetlands, waterfront development, etc.
We will work together to integrate these design concepts at the site, urban, and international scales. Previously 4.286 & 11.944

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4.216 - 11.316 (Back to top)
Landscape Heritage Conservation Workshop: Nizamuddin
Instructor: Jim Wescoat

Description:
This workshop introduces students to the theory and practice of landscape heritage conservation in the Indo-Islamic context. Theoretically, this field is charged with issues of cultural identity, historicism, conflict, and creativity. It entails multiple methods of inquiry and associated challenges of synthesis, analogy, and judgment. At the same time, the practice of conservation design in South Asia is entering a new phase of sophistication, which can shed light on the history and theory of the field internationally. Students will gain a firsthand sense of these connections by working alongside an active conservation design project of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) project in the Nizamuddin area of Delhi, a project that has expanded from garden heritage conservation to related fields of urban environmental and socioeconomic development. Students will spend ~2 weeks in India in January 2009. Funding support would be provided from AKPIA for travel and lodging; students will be responsible for meals, internal travel, incidentals, etc. We will meet with faculty and graduate students at the Architectural Conservation Department at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) and the Conservation Department of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). We may also take short trips to conservation projects in Agra and Rajasthan for comparison with the work in Delhi.

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4.611 & 4.613 (Back to top)
Civil Architecture in Islamic History
Instructor:
Nasser Rabbat

Description:
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.   The class format is an alternation between lectures and discussion sessions at the rate of 2 or 3 lectures to 1 discussion.   The class requirements are three short papers (7 pp) and two class presentations for undergraduates; the 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 the class.

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4.612 (Back to top)
Islamic Architecture and the Environment
Instructor:
Nasser Rabbat

Description:
This course proposes to study how Islamic architecture and urban planning coped with environmental constraints in various areas and different climates and turned them into constructive design tools. It examines the environmental strategies behind the design of selected examples ranging in scale from the region, to the city, the house, the garden, and the single architectural element. It explores the social, cultural, symbolic, and psychological dimensions of environmental design as they developed over time to enrich, modify, or even obscure their functional origins.
Topics Covered:
- The Image of Paradise and its models: Koranic gardens, Dome of Heaven, Celestial Dome; Muqarnas
- Movable Architecture: tents, yurts, and camps.
- Shadow and Shading devices; Trees; Tiles; Colors
- Wind catchers and other cooling techniques
- Orientation and the city scape: streets, openings, houses.
- Water Architecture: fountains, sabils, qanat, shadirwan, waterwheel, aqueducts, Hammams
- Andalusian Examples: Madinat al-Zahra, Alhambra, Generalife
- Chahar Bagh symbolism: Representation of garden in painting
- Timurid, Mughal, Ottoman, and Persian Gardens
- Representation of garden in painting (Nasuh, Persian, Mughal, Qajar)
- Architecture and Travel: Caravanserai (Ottoman chimneys), Grand Hotels
- The Courtyard House: Hasan Fathy's notion on Courtyard houses.
- Contemporary indulgences: Diplomats' section in Riyadh, Hollywood's representations, Summer villas in the Mediterranean.
- The city scape: streets, openings, houses
The course is open to graduates and undergraduates. It is structured as a pro-seminar. One session each week will be devoted to a lecture on a specific topic. The second session will be a class discussion on the same topic with designated students' presentations on various aspects of the topic. The course will have a mid-term open-book exam, and a final take-home exam.

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4.614 (Back to top)
Religious Architecture and Islamic Cultures
Instructor:
Nasser Rabbat

Description:
This course introduces the history of Islamic cultures through its architecture. Religious, commemorative, and educational structures are surveyed from the beginning of Islam in 7th-century Arabia to its developing into a world religion professed by one-sixth of humanity today. The survey is chronological with emphasis on distinguished patrons, influential thinkers, and outstanding designers. Representative examples of mosques, madrasas, mausolea, etc. are analyzed and their architectural, urban, and stylistic characteristics are examined in conjunction with their historical, political, and intellectual settings.
Visual media are used to elucidate the artistic/cultural varieties and historical developments of this architectural heritage. Students are encouraged to raise questions and generate debates during the lectures as well as the discussion sessions. The aim is to explore all possible venues of interpretation to better locate Islamic religious architecture within its regional, pan-Islamic, and universal and cross-cultural contexts.
REQUIRED TEXTS:
Richard Ettinghausen, Oleg Grabar, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina. The Art and Architecture of Islam: 650-1250. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001.
Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom, The art and architecture of Islam 1250-1800. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.
RECOMMENDED TEXTS:
George Michell, ed. Architecture of the Islamic World: Its History and Social Meaning, London: Thames and Hudson, 1978 [reprint 1984].
Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1991.
Robert Hillenbrand, Islamic architecture: form, function and meaning. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1994.
John D. Hoag, Islamic Architecture. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1977.
CLASS REQUIREMENTS:
4 short papers (6-7 pp., 15% of the final grade each) and a final open-book exam (30 % of the final grade), and 10% of the final grade for attendance and participation in discussion.

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4.615 (Back to top)
Architecture of Cairo
Instructor:
Nasser Rabbat

Description:
Cairo is the quintessential Islamic city.   Founded in 634 at the strategic head of the Nile Delta, the city evolved from a military outpost to the seat of the ambitious Fatimid caliphate, which flourished between the 10th and 12th century.   Its most spectacular age, however, was the Mamluk period (1250-1517), when it became the uncontested center of a resurgent Islam and acquired an architectural character that symbolized the image of the Islamic city for centuries to come.   Between the sixteenth and the end of the eighteenth century, Cairo was reduced to an Ottoman provincial capital.   Then, it witnessed a short yet ebullient renaissance under the reformist Muhammad 'Ali Pasha (1805-48) followed by an extended stretch of oscillation between neglect and modernization projects that is still with us today.   The resulting urban and architectural chaos was exacerbated in the twentieth century by acute problems of rapid expansion, population explosion, and underdevelopment.
Cairo, however, still shines as a cultural and political center in its three spheres of influence: the Arab world, Africa, and the Islamic world.   Moreover, many of its monuments (456 registered by the 1951 Survey of the Islamic Monuments of Cairo) still stand, although they remain largely unknown to the world's architectural community and their numbers are dwindling at an exceedingly alarming pace.
In this course we will recount the history of Cairo.   We will review its urban and architectural developments and interpret them in light of the cultural, political, and social history of the country, the region, and the world.   We will also examine its architectural types and urban patterns to see how they relate to their wider Islamic and Mediterranean contexts. The course is open to graduate students.   A number of discussions are scheduled to further address critical architectural and urban issues.   Students are encouraged to contribute to these sessions as part of their requirements.   Three short essays (7-10 pages each) will be assigned.   Graduate students may substitute a research paper for one or more of the essays.

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4.616 (Back to top)
Cultural Signification in Architecture
Instructor:
Nasser Rabbat
Description:
The issue of meaning in architecture has occupied many architects, historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, and philosophers and has produced a whole range of opinions from architecture as a meaning-free enterprise to architecture as both the arena and product of the interplay of cultural, social, and historical constraints.
This course is an exercise in evaluating the historical and sociocultural roles of architecture as the carrier of meanings: intentional and contrived, individual and multi-layered, conscious and unconscious, as well as contested and even contradictory meanings.   It uses a number of important examples from the repertoire of architecture past and present (with a focus on Islamic architecture) to explore traditions, transformations, and inventions in architecture as a conveyer of messages that transcend the stylistic, formal, and iconographic domains.   The examples range from architectural or iconographic motifs to single monuments to types of buildings to entire cities.   They also cover single architects (like Sinan and Hassan Fathy) and conservation debates and projects.   Students will be encouraged to suggest examples of interest to them for class presentations and discussions.
The seminar is open to advanced undergraduates and graduate students with some knowledge of Islamic architecture.   Each session will be divided into two parts: a short lecture followed by a discussion period.   The range of themes considered will depend on the class dynamics and students interests.   The course includes weekly reading and writing assignments and requires active participation in discussions.   Students' weekly responses will form the basis of class discussions.   A research paper is to be first presented in class and then submitted at the end of the term.   Topics should be decided in consultation with the instructors.

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4.617 (Back to top)
Issues in Islamic Urbanism:
The Islamic City:
From an Orientalist Concept to a Contemporary Aspiration
Instructor:
Nasser Rabbat

Issues in Islamic Urbanism:
Balancing Globalism and Regionalism:
The Orientalist Dream City
Instructor:
Nasser Rabbat

Issues in Islamic Urbanism:
Balancing Globalism and Regionalism:
The Heart of Doha Project
Instructor:
Nasser Rabbat

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4.619 (Back to top)
Historiography of Islamic Architecture
Instructor:
Nasser Rabbat

Description:
This seminar presents a critical review of literature on Islamic architecture in the last two centuries and analyzes its historical and theoretical frameworks.   It challenges the tacit assumptions and biases of standard studies of Islamic architecture and addresses historiographic and critical questions concerning how knowledge of a field is defined, produced, and reproduced.
The seminar focuses on two critical issues that have emerged recently both in academe and in the architectural profession.   First is the relationship between architecture and culture, a crucial query that has become one of the most debated issues in architectural and art historical circles.   Second is the definition of Islamic architecture, a discursive category embraced by a devout audience but skeptically accepted by academics, which has never had a forum where it can be scholarly and critically examined without proscribed historical or ideological limits.   This is especially true in the case of its presumed temporal boundaries: the polemical discontinuity from late antique to Islamic architecture, and the forced rupture between modern architecture in the Islamic world and its historical genealogy.   The course aims to include both moments.   But it definitely does not aim to essentialize Islamic architecture.   Instead it emphasizes the cultural diversity within the Islamic context, which produced the various architectural traditions that dot the historical and geographic map of the Islamic world.
The course includes weekly reading and writing assignments and requires active participation in discussions.   During the second half of the term, we will have a number of visiting scholars presenting their research and engaging in discussions with the class.   A research paper is to be first presented in class and then submitted at the end of the term.   Topics are limited to in-depth studies of texts, representations, and scholarly traditions.   They can either be chosen from the enclosed list or should be decided in consultation with the instructor by the end of the third week of the semester.   A short abstract and preliminary bibliography should be submitted by the fourth week.   Required texts are available at the Coop and area bookshops.   All articles and book sections required will be available on a Stellar Site.
Required Texts: Oleg Grabar, The Formation of Islamic Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973, 1987 2d ed.); Yasser Tabbaa, The Transformation of Islamic Art during the Sunni Revival (Seattle: University of Washington Press: 2001); George Michell, ed. Architecture of the Islamic World: Its History and Social Meaning,   London: Thames and Hudson, 1978 [reprint 1984].
Background Text: Marshall G.S. Hodgson, The venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization 3 vols.   (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1974) Robert Irwin, Islamic Art in Context: Art, Architecture and the Literary World. (Upper Saddle River, NJ; New York: Prentice-Hall; H.N. Abrams, 1997). Reference Tools in Islamic Architecture: http://hcl.harvard.edu/research/guides/iaa/

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4.621 (Back to top)
Orientalism and Representation
Instructor:
Nasser Rabbat

Description:
This is a seminar on the politics of knowledge, that is, how political and ideological attitudes, concerns, and biases inform – and sometimes dictate – the representation, codification and production of knowledge. It uses Orientalism as its example, which it argues is a discursive classification, i.e., one that is historically and culturally constructed. Adopting a flexible historical framework, the seminar explores selected cases of cultural encounters between Europe and the "Orient" from Antiquity to the present. Its method is to critically review texts, illustrations, architectural projects, and institutional traditions, which have been influential and/or paradigmatic in shaping the concepts and images of the “Orient” over time. They include medieval sources, both European and Islamic, treatises by Orientalist scholars and travelers of the post-Enlightenment age, and, more recently, by academicians, artists, and architects working on the Islamic world (what was traditionally called the Orient).
The seminar also considers contemporary critical issues, such as the “clash of civilizations,” identity, exile, multiculturalism, and hybridity that are impacting the ways we see and represent the Islamic world today. The aim is to gain a historically grounded awareness of the complexities of cultural identities, which are always contesting and sometimes subverting the representations that claim to depict and define them.
REQUIRED TEXTS:
Edward Said, Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.
Thierry Hentsch, Imagining the Middle East New York, 1992.
The readings are an important component of the class; they will provide the focus of class discussion. You must read all the assigned readings in addition to participating in class discussion. Further readings from books and articles will be on the stellar site.
CLASS REQUIREMENTS:
The requirements of this course will consist of weekly one to two-page reactions to the reading every week and a final paper (3000-4000 words) to be presented in class and then submitted at the end of the course. Topics are limited to in-depth studies of texts and/or art or architectural examples. They can either be chosen from the enclosed list or should be decided in consultation with the instructor by the end of the 3rd week of the semester. Students should submit a one-page abstract with a preliminary bibliography by the end of week 4.

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4.623 (Back to top)
Mughal Landscapes: History, Heritage, and Design
Instructor:
Jim Wescoat
Description:
This seminar focuses on environmental design during the Mughal empire of South Asia (16th through 18th centuries), a dynasty of Central Asian origins that extended over what are today the territories of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
The seminar critically evaluates places described as gardens, cities, landscapes, and territories, along with their changing meanings over time. These sites range from tomb-gardens such as the Taj Mahal to palaces, citadels, waterworks, and pleasure gardens. They have meanings that conjoined religious symbolism with economic production, environmental functions, and political power.
We begin with modern debates over the cultural heritage value, conservation, and design significance of Mughal landscapes. From these modern questions, which constitute "the designer's problem," we follow diverse strands of evidence that may help us reconstruct and interpret these historic places. Some students may focus on the representation of landscapes in texts, paintings, or historical photography. Others may choose to analyze extant landscape forms, shapes, and metrics. Each type of evidence raises as many questions as it answers. We work together to weigh and synthesize the results in ways that reinterpret the history, heritage, and design of Mughal landscapes; and strive to assemble our findings in an edited report.
Each year the seminar focuses on a specific historical and historiographical issue. Previously 4.629

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4.625J - 11.378J (Back to top)
Water in Environmental History, Policy and Design Reading Group
Instructor: Jim Wescoat

Description:
Water in Environmental History, Policy and Design Reading Group This for-credit reading group is aimed at students with a thesis, dissertation, or minor field concentration related to water resources. As a large multidisciplinary field, water is a challenging topic for graduate students and faculty to follow. Even so, the connections among history, policy, and design have increasing intellectual significance for understanding and addressing water issues. Each participant will take responsibility for selected subfields and journals to help the group keep current on new historical research, design projects, and policy analyses. Weekly Stellar contributions and periodic presentations. Prereq: permission of instructor
G (Spring). Units 2-0-4. H-LEVEL Grad Credit. Can be repeated for credit

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4.628(Back to top)
Modernization and Colonization: Cairo in the Long 19 th century
Instructor: Nasser Rabbat

Description:
Steeped in history and tradition, but also open and cosmopolitan, Cairo experienced an expansive yet distinct revival during the long 19th century. Starting with the Napoleonic invasion of 1789, the city went through a series of extensive urban, political, cultural, and economic transmutations. Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha (1805-48) sought to modernize it in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to catch up with the West. His grandson, Khedive Isma‘il (1868-76), fanatically “progress”-minded, quickened the pace of modernization and “Haussmannized” Cairo, which drastically altered its size, layout, and future development. In the process, he ruined Egypt’s finances, which opened the way for direct British rule in 1882. Colonization tied the city to a vast imperial network, which spurred a new urban expansion spearheaded by a multitude of adventurous immigrants who came from all around the Mediterranean and beyond. New districts were planned and scores of buildings were built in hybrid styles that borrowed freely from the varied repertoires of the past and blended them with various European styles. This phase ended with the Revolution of 1952 that toppled the monarchy and shifted to nationalism and socialism as framers of the city’s identity.
This seminar will address the emergence of the colonial metropolis in the 19th century by examining Cairo as one of its paradigmatic examples. It will trace the city’s urban, social, and cultural transformations and consider its changing architectural character from the perspective of the intense cross-cultural activity that marked its development. Challenging the standard binary framing strategies such as East vs. West, traditional vs. modern, and local vs. global, the seminar will focus instead on the profound dialectical relationship of modernity with colonization. With its particular recent history where indigenous modernization preceded colonization, Cairo in fact forces us to reconsider that relationship and to cast it in a totally new interpretive framework.
The course includes weekly reading and writing/documentation assignments and requires participation in discussions. For their research, students will choose an urban phase, a district, or a building type/style, document it, analyze it, and interpret it in the context of Cairo’s cosmopolitanism. Student research will be presented in class and will be the basis of the paper to be submitted at the end of the term.

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Past AKPIA@MIT Courses (Back to top)

4.611 / 4.613
Civic Architecture in Islamic History -
stanbul: From Imperial Capital to Global City

4.613
Civic and Residential Islamic Architecture

4.616
Selected Topics on Culture and Architecture
Global Perspectives on Modern Architecture

4.620
Heritage as a Battleground

4.622
Theories and Histories of Architectural Preservation
and

4.627 & 4.628
Special Problems in Islamic and Nonwestern Architecture—
Contemporary Art in the Middle East

4.628
Special Problems in Islamic and Nonwestern Architecture—
Islamic Calligraphy and Architecture



4.629

Special Problems in Islamic and Nonwestern Architecture—
City as Palimpsest: The Islamic City from the Pre-modern to
Post-modern

4.630
Topics in Islamic and Non-Western Architecture:
Text and Context in Pre-Modern Architecture

4.681
Paris/Cairo: The East-West Tale of the Modern Metropolis