Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Architecture
History, Theory & Criticism Section


Conferences, Symposia, and Sessions Organized

Lectures and Conference Presentations


February 1, 2012, interview with Jane O’Brien, BBC News, “Muslim America Moves away from the Minaret,”
August 24, 2012, Interview with Robin Young, Here & Now, WBUR, “Violence In Syria Threatens World Cultural Heritage,”

\March 27, 2010 interview with on the conference “Continuity and change: Religious identities in the Levant from Alexander to Muhammad,”

March 25, 2009, Interview with Caroline Anstey for a documentary on the Heart of Doha project produced by Green Line Production, Doha, Qatar.

January 6, 2009, Interview with Granada Television, UK at the Crac des Chevaliers, Syria, for the PBS documentary “Ground War,’ episode 4, “Command and Control.”

December 10, 2008, Interview with Arash Hoda of WNET for a PBS documentary       “Art Through Time: A Global View?”

September 9-10, 2008. Disucssion with Eric Westervelt of NPR on Syria's 'Dead Cities' published on

March 14, 2008, One-hour interview on architecture, culture, politics, and conservation in Cairo with Gamal al-Ghitani in his program ‘Alamat (Signs) on the Egyptian satellite channel al-Nile News.

February 8-9, 2008, an interview on the architecture of the Ibn Tulun Mosque in Cairo with Sterling Van Wagenen of LVL Slickrock Films for Learning from Light: The Vision of I.M. Pei (Bo Landin, 2009), a documentary on the architect I.M. Pei and his design of the new Museum of Islamic Art in Doha,

November 21, 2006, One hour discussion on Syria, on Open Source with Christopher Lydon on WGBH and the Web.

An interview with Felix Burrichter, “Built on Sand: How Will the Legacy of Islamic Architecture Survive in a Post-Modern Landscape,” Alef Magazine 2 (Spring 2007): 152-59.

August 2, 2006, One hour discussion on “Generational Divide in the Middle East, ”on Open Source with Christopher Lydon on WGBH and the Web.

May 29, 2006, One hour discussion on BBC's CULTURE SHOCK on the increase in building religious structures around the world and its architectural, geopolitical, and cultural underpinnings.  Other panelists included Mario Botta, George Ferguson (RIBA), and Suzanne Morgan (Chicago).

May 13, 2006, Public dialogue with David Macaulay of RISD and Chris Lydon, the public radio host, at RISD Auditorium on mosques as spaces for peace.   The event was a fundraiser for the organization Space for Peace and was titled, "What Can One See from a Minaret?"

An Interview on Islamic Architecture and cultural identity "who, what, where, when, why, how," in ab Architecture Boston, (September-October 2005): 44-49.

Conferences, Symposia, and Sessions Organized

Nov 17, 2012 Chair and Moderator, “Empowering Syria’s Youth: Laying the Foundation for a Prosperous and Democratic Present and Future,” Panel, Jusoor’s First Annual Global Conference, Trump Soho, New York

July 19-20 2012 Co-chair with Bernd Nicolai of Section 15, “Charged Sites,” at the 33rd Congress of the Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art (CIHA), Nürnberg, Germany

December 3, 2011 Discussant, Special Session, “Oleg Grabar’s Contributions to the Cultural History of the Near and Middle East,” MESA 2011 Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.

Sept 30-Oct 1, 2011 Organized and chaired a symposium at MIT on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary Alumni Reunion of AKPIA@MIT, Department of Architecture, MIT

April 27, 2011 Organized and chaired the panel “The Global Architect in the Free Trade Age,” Special Event of the MIT 150th Anniversary Celebration, Department of Architecture, MIT

December 17, 2010 Chaired the Panel, “Research in Progress: The Body Politic, AMCA Conference at Mathaf: Modern Arab Art: Objects, Histories, and Methodologies, Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar

November 13, 2010 Organized and chaired the workshop, “Where Does the Field of Islamic Art and Architecture Stand Today?” sponsored by the Aga Khan Program For Islamic Architecture, MIT

January 24, 2010 Chair and Discussant, Roundtable Discussion, Dialogue with Abstraction: Arab Artists in Conversation, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum, Abu Dhabi

January 17, 2010 Discussant, Roundtable Discussion, “Taswir ˆ Pictorial Mappings of Islam and Modernity,” Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

April 24, 2009 Supervised the organization of the symposium, “History practice: Exploring the Role of History in Contemporary Architectural Practice," sponsored by the Aga Khan Program For Islamic Architecture, MIT

April 18, 2009 Discussant, “Water in Architecture, Landscape + Urbanism” symposium, sponsored by the Aga Khan Program For Islamic Architecture, MIT

February 26-28, 2009 Discussant and Chair, “Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Knowledge Construction Workshop II: Homogeneity of Representations,” Vancouver, Canada

October 18, 2008 Chaired the Session “How to Study Contemporary Islamic Art and Architecture,” HIAA Symposium, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

September 2007-June 2008 Organized and moderated a discussion group on conservation in Cairo at the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). The group met every three weeks and included more than ninety members representing all the organizations, governmental and private, involved in conservation projects in Cairo.

May 8, 2008 Moderated the Aga Khan Award for Architecture Seminar, Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal

April 30, 2008 Moderated the Aga Khan Award for Architecture Seminar, Al-Assad Library, Damascus, Syria

January 16, 2008 Co-organized Aga Khan Award for Architecture Seminar, Shaikh Ebrahim Bin Mohammad Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research, Manama, Bahrain

October 24, 2007 Moderated the Aga Khan Award for Architecture Seminar, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria

April 26-28, 2007 Co-organized the international conference " Deus (e)X Historia: A Conference Exploring Divinity and Reason in the Production of Knowledge," sponsored by the History, Theory and Criticism Section, Department of Architecture, MIT

April 21-22, 2006 Co-organized the international conference "The Mosque in the West," sponsored by the Aga Khan Program For Islamic Architecture, MIT

February 23, 2006 Chair and organizer, " Islamic Art and the Multicultural Method," Session, CAA 94th Annual Conference, Boston

November 20, 2005 Discussant, "Art and War," Panel, MESA 39th Annual Meeting, Washington, DC.

Lectures and Conference Presentations

November 10, 2012 “The Three Mosques,” Keynote address at the Vermont Humanities Council Fall Conference, Sacred Spaces, Sacred Places: Religious Architecture and Sites, Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa, Stowe, Vermont

October 5, 2012 “Fabled Cities of the East,” Keynote talk, The International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE), 2012 Conference, The Myth of Tradition, University of Oregon, Portland, OR

September 7, 2012 “Reconciling the Concept of Civil Rights with the Islamist Discourse,” in the seminar Roads to a Free Syria, Hudson Institute, Washington DC

July 19, 2012 “The Ka‘ba: A Primordial Locus of Memory,” the 33rd Congress of the Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art (CIHA), Nürnberg, Germany

May 10, 2012 “The Historical background of the Syrian Revolution,” The Syrian Struggle for Democracy, MIT Amnesty Chapter, MIT

December 21, 2011 “Whence Islamic Architecture,” in the Symposium, Shaping the Future of Architecture and Urbanism in Islamic Societies, Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, Program of Urban Design and Architecture of Islamic Societies, Qatar Foundation, Doha, Qatar

December 20, 2011 “Cairo: From the Premier Islamic Capital to the Modern Metropolis,” Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, Program of Urban Design and Architecture of Islamic Societies, Qatar Foundation, Doha, Qatar

November 12, 2011 “In Defense of the Arab Citizen,” Keynote address, Harvard Arab Weekend, Harvard University

November 3, 2011 “Cairo: The Old Metropolis and the Elixir of Modernity,” Fall 2011 Graduate Student Dinner, History Department, Simmons College, Boston, MA

October 27, 2011 “What is Islamic Architecture Anyway?” Warnock Lecture, Department of Art History, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL

October 19, 2011 “The Story of Islamic Architecture,” The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

September 15, 2011 “Cairo: The Dialectic of History and Modernity,” Learning From… Lecture Series, The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), Montreal, Canada,

May 29, 2011 “Architecture in Syria: An Index of Mediterranean Cultures,” in the Symposium, Syria: History and Culture, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH

March 5, 2011 “Cairo’s Liberation Square,” In the Symposium, The Life of Cities: Parallel Narratives of The Urban, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

February 19, 2011 “Orientalist Painting and Nostalgia of an Imaginary Past,” (in Arabic), Muscat Festival 2011, Muscat, Oman

January 21, 2011 “Architecture Between Religion and Politics,” Keynote Address and Brendan Gill Lecture in the conference, Middle Ground/Middle East: Religious Sites in Urban Contexts, Yale University, School of Architecture, New Haven, CT

January 5, 2011 “Our Image in Orientalist Painting: Objective Realism or Cultural Chauvinism?” in Tarim Lecture Series, Asad Library, Damascus, Syria

October 19, 2010 “Modernism, Islamism, and the Question of Identity in the Architecture of the Arab World,” Middle East Initiative Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

April 30, 2010 “The Glamour Factor in the Cities of the Arabian Gulf,”
List Art Center, Brown University

April 22, 2010 “Syria: The Forgotten Heir of Antiquity,” Library of Congress, Washington, DC

April 9, 2010 “Modernism, Islamism, and the Question of Identity in the Architecture of the Arab World,” School of Architecture, The University of Miami

March 27, 2010 ‘Politicizing the Religious: Or How the Umayyads Co-opted Classical Iconography,“ Continuity and change: Religious identities in the Levant from Alexander to Muhammad, Conference, the Danish Institute, Damascus, Syria

March 23, 2010 "How Mamluk Architecture Co-opted the Streets of Cairo," Bayard Dodge Distinguished Visiting Professor Lecture, American University in Cairo

March 21, 2010 "Arabic Culture and the Problem of Modernity," (in Arabic), Bayard Dodge Distinguished Visiting Professor Lecture, American University in Cairo

January 16, 2010 “Islamic Art at a Crossraod?,” Plenary Lecture, “Layers of Islamic Art and the Museum Context” Conference, Pergamonmuseum, Berlin

December 9, 2009   “Culture and Glamour in the Arabian Gulf Architecture: The Twain Shall Meet” in the Symposium “Abu Dabi: une capitale en construction,” Louvre Museum, Paris, France

December 3, 2009    “The Architect: A Brief Cultural History,” SMArchS Colloquium, Department of Architecture, MIT

November 12, 2009   “Orientalist Art & Representational Realism,” (in Arabic) The Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, Cambridge

November 5, 2009    “Staging the City: How Mamluk Architecture Coopted the Streets of Cairo,” The Aga Khan Program at Harvard University, Cambridge

September 25, 2009    “In Search of a Triumphant Image: The Formative Period in Mamluk Art,” Arts of the Mamluks Conference, SOAS, University of London

September 15, 2009    “Doing Urban History in the Fifteenth Century: al-Maqrizi and his Book on Cairo,” Sahin Seminar Series, MIT

June 12, 2009   “Building the Utopian Capitalist City in the Gulf?” Round-table discussion "Reconsidering Dubai. New Perspectives for Cities in the Middle East?" Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, Aga Khan University, London

June 11, 2009    “The Bicephalic Eagle: A Symbol of Sultan? IISMM (l'Institut d'études de l'Islam et des sociétés du monde musulman, École des hautes etudes en sciences socials (EHESS), Paris

June 5, 2009     “Power and the City: Or How Mamluk Architecture Coopted the Streets of Cairo,” Louvre Museum, Paris

June 4, 2009    “History, the City, and Power: Maqrizi and his Book on the Khitat of Egypt,” IISMM (l'Institut d'études de l'Islam et des sociétés du monde musulman, École des hautes etudes en sciences socials (EHESS), Paris

May 28, 2009    “Shifting Identities: A History of Contemporary Arab Architecture,” Auditorium of the Louvre Museum, Paris

April 20, 2009    “Aluminum Domes, Concrete Arches, and Steel Mushrabiyyas: Architecture in the Arab World and the Predicament of Identity,” 2009 Street Hall Lecture, The Department of the History of Art, Yale University

March 28, 2009    “Maqrizi and the Fatimids,” at the People of the Prophet's House: Art, Architecture and Shi'ism in the Islamic World conference, Co-sponsored by the British Museum and the Institute of Ismaili Studies, the British Museum, London

March 24, 2009   “Some Remarks on the Arabo-Islamic City,” Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering, Qatar University

January 29, 2009  “Arab History, Culture, and Art,” an introduction to the members of the Boston Children’s Chorus, Boston

December 28, 2008   “Iron Mushrabiyyas, Red Marble, and Concrete Buddhas:The Palaces of Cairo’s Belle-Époque,” American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), Cairo

November 24, 2008  “The Experimental Quality of Early Mamluk Art,” Beyond Boundaries-Islamic Art Across Cultures Conference, The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

November 6, 2008   “Introduction to the Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture,” SMArchS Faculty Colloquium, Department of Architecture, MIT

May 27, 2008  "People and Conservation in Cairo: A Wonderful Example to Learn From," (in Arabic) Conservation Group Meeting, American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), Cairo

May 7, 2008     “The Double-Headed Eagle: A symbol of the Sultan?” Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal

April 29, 2008   “Architecture in Syria: A Unique Index of Cultural Cross-Fertilization,” (in Arabic) Al-Assad Library, Damascus, Syria

April 7, 2008    “Modernizing Cairo: An Architectural Vision” (in Arabic) Department of Architecture, Fine Arts Faculty, Helwan University, Cairo

April 2, 2008     “Was al-Maqrizi’s Khitat the first Khaldunian History?” Seminar, Bo?aziçi Museum, Bo?aziçi University, Istanbul

April 1, 2008    “The Prison-House of Identity: A Critique of Contemporary Islamic Architecture,” the 2008 Aptullah Kuran Memorial Lecture, Bo?aziçi University, Istanbul

March 12 2008    “Orientalist Art and the Mirage of Realism and Objectivity,” (in Arabic) Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Conference Center, Alexandria

January 21, 2008   “Design Without Representation: Reflections on an Observation by ‘Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi (1162-1231) on Building in Egypt,” Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), Cairo

January 15, 2008  “The Romantic Quest: A Short History of Islamic Architecture,” Shaikh Ebrahim Bin Mohammad Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research, Manama, Bahrain

January 9, 2008   “History as Identity: A Critique of Modern Islamic Architecture,” American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), Cairo

December 13, 2007     “Les salles du trône Mameloukes,” Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale (IFAO), Cairo

September 12, 2007     “History as Identity in Modern Islamic Architecture” Boston Society of Architects (BSA) Lecture Series, Boston Public Library, Boston

September 10, 2007     “The Quixotic Quest: A Brief Historiography of Islamic Architecture,” Department of Art History, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware

July 19, 2007   “The Double-Headed Eagle: a Symbol of Sultan?” Gesellschaft der Freunde Islamischer Kunst und Kultur, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich

July 7, 2007    “The Bicephalic Eagle: a Symbol of Sultan?” Colloquium of the Ernst Herzfeld-Gesellschaft zur Erforschung der islamischen Kunst und Archäologie, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna

June 12, 2007   “History as Identity in Contemporary Islamic Architecture,” Inaugural Lecture, Allianz-Gastprofessor für Islamstudien, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich

May 27, 2007    “The Prison House of the Orient: A History of Contemporary Architecture in the Islamic World,” Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, HA

March 1, 2007    “The Mars Sign: The Evolution of Cairo from a Palace-City to a Modern Metropolis” Program in Middle Eastern Studies, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA

January 31, 2007   “Islamic Architecture and the Veil of Orientalism,” Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUQ), Doha, Qatar

January 25, 2007    “Islamic Architecture: History, Meaning, and Contemporary Relevance,” A Discussion with recent architecture graduates at the American Cultural Center, Damascus

December 18, 2006   “Nationalism, Modernism, and Heritage in 20th century Mosque Architecture” Department of Architecture, BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangaldesh

December 17, 2006    “Toward an Intercultural Model for the Study of Islamic Architecture,” AKTC International Forum, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

November 10, 2006     “The Historical Morphology of Islamic Cairo: Some Observations,” at the Steering Committee meeting, Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Cairo, Egypt

November 7, 2006    “Umayyad Architecture: Spectacular Variations on Classical Themes?” in the Colloquium Late Antique and Early Islamic Archaeology in Bilad al-Sham, organized by the German Archaeological Institute, Damascus, Syria

October 7, 2006    “Islamic Architecture and the Intercultural Method.” In the conference, Sharing Architecture Cultures Across the Maghreb and India, Universidade de Évora, Department of Architecture, Centro de História de Arte, Portugal

May 13, 2006     “What Does one See from a Minaret,” roundtable discussion organized by Spaces for Peace, RISD Auditorium, Providence, RI

May 5, 2006    “Modern Arabic Architecture and the Veil of Orientalism,” in the symposium “Les orientalismes en architecture à l'épreuve des saviors,” Institut National de l’Histoire de l’Art, Paris

April 15, 2006    “Competing Architectural Identities in Modern Cairo,” Public Museum of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, MI.  Sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, Grand Valley Chapter.

March 27, 2006   “Contemporary Arabic Architecture and the Stranglehold of Identity,” (in Arabic), Department of Architecture, University of Cairo.  

March 24, 2006    «The Meaning of Sultan: A Clue From the Double-Headed Eagle Figure,” in the symposium Exercising Power In The Age of the Sultanates" Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale, Cairo

March 17, 2006    “The Legacy of Orientalism in Contemporary Islamic Art,” Keynote lecture, Graduate Colloquium on Islamic Contemporary Art, The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

January 7, 2006      "Leaving the Quixotic Dilemma: The Problem of Identity in Contemporary Arabic Architecture," (in Arabic), The Order of Syrian Engineers and Architects, Damascus, Syria.  Also presented on January 4, 2006 at the Diwan al-Mi‘mar, Darat al-Funun, Amman, Jordan, and on December 27, 2005 at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

September 2, 2005    "Toward an Intercultural Historiography of Islamic Architecture" SAH 2d International Conference "Changing Boundaries: Architectural History in Transition," at the Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art (INHA), Paris

May 25, 2005    "The Dead Cities in Syria and the Question of Heritage" (In Arabic), Engineers and Architects Order of Aleppo, Aleppo, Syria

April 22, 2005     Keynote Lecture, "The Urban Character of Mamluk Architecture in Cairo: The Example of al-Darb al-Ahmar," ARCE (American Research Center in Egypt) 2005 Annual Meeting, Cambridge, MA

April 15, 2005    "Writing History in Mamluk Cairo," Middle Eastern Center Lecture Series, the University of Chicago, Chicago, Il

April 13, 2005   Moderator of the "New Histories" Session in the Symposium Aleppo: New Perspectives on the Old City, Sponsored by the Aga Khan Program at the GSD

April 9, 2005     Moderator of the Arts Session in the "Jerusalem 2050 Visionaries Conference," hosted by The Center for International Studies and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT

March 26-27, 2005     Participant, IFAO-ARCE second round table, " Excercizing Power in the Age of the Sultanates, " Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale, Cairo

March 21-22, 2005     External Examiner of six Architectural Doctorate Dissertations at the Politecnico de Bari, Dipartimento di Scienze dell'Ingegneria Civile e dell'Architettura, Bari, Italy

February 17, 2005,     "Architecture in Syria From Classical Antiquity to Islamic Classicism," Concord-Carlisle Adult & Community Education, Concord-Carlisle High School, Concord MA

February 4, 2005    "Toward a Critical Historiography of Islamic Architecture," Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, AKU-ISMC, London