MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000


Established in 1979, the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA) at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is supported by an endowment from His Highness The Aga Khan. The Geneva-based Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) provides additional funding for various program activities. AKPIA is dedicated to the study of Islamic architecture and urbanism, visual arts, and conservation and rehabilitation in an effort to respond to the cultural and educational needs of a diverse Islamic world. Towards this goal we aim to improve the teaching of Islamic art and architecture, promote excellence in professional research, and enhance the understanding of Islamic architecture and urbanism in light of contemporary critical, theoretical, and developmental issues. We also continually promote the visibility of pan-Islamic architectural, artistic, and cultural heritage.



Eight SMArchS students participated in the History and Culture Degree Program. Six completed their degree requirements and graduated: Nandini Bagchee (India), T. Luke Young (USA), Sunitha Raju (India), Aslihan Demirtas (Turkey), Nilay Oza (India) and Markus Elkatsha (Egypt). Two are continuing as second year students Bianca Nardella (Italy) and Yasmine Abbas (France/Syria). One SMArchS student in the HTC program, Tamara Corm, completed her thesis under the supervision of Professor Rabbat and graduated in Spring 2000.

Six doctoral students participated in the AKPIA History, Theory and Criticism Program. Kishwar Rizvi completed her dissertation and Maha Yahya, Lara Tohme (currently a Samuel H. Kress Fellow at ACOR in Amman), Panayiota Pyla (who has Kress Fellowship support), and Talin Der-Grigorian are currently writing their dissertations. Newly admitted Ph.D. candidate, Glaire D. Anderson, is researching the architecture of the Islamic and Christian world with reference to Islamic Spain.


Aga Khan Professor Nasser Rabbat organized the Fall 1999 series, "Seeing Others, Seeing Ourselves." Invited speakers were: Caroline Williams, College of William and Mary, Irvin Schick, Harvard University, and Aziz el-Azmeh, Columbia University.

Visiting Associate Professor Hasan-Uddin Khan organized the Spring 2000 series, "Contemporary Architecture in the Islamic World." Invited speakers were: Raj Rewal, Architect, New Delhi, Attilio Petruccioli, former AKPIA Director and Associate Professor of Design, School of Architecture, Politechnico di Bari, Farokh Afshar, Associate Professor at the School of Rural Planning and Development, University of Guelph, and Intisar Azzuz, Independent Scholar. The series finished with the Secretary General of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Suha Ozkan, presenting, "Validation and Change: The Aga Khan Award for Architecture."

Faculty Research and Teaching Activities

Recently tenured, Associate Professor Nasser Rabbat was appointed the Aga Khan Professor of the History of Islamic Architecture and named Academic Director of the AKTC sponsored ArchNet project. Using copyright-free photos, he is putting three of his courses–History of Cairo, Islamic Architecture and the Environment, Religious Architecture and Islamic Cultures–on the web. The three websites should be completed by Fall 2000. Rabbat delivered the following lectures: "The Visual Milieu of The Counter-Crusade in 12th-13th c. Syria And Egypt," at "The Crusades: Other Experiences, Alternate Perspectives," the 32d Annual Conference held at the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, SUNY- Binghamton; "Citizen Maqrizi: A Forefather of the Modern Narratives on Cairo," at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UC Berkeley; and "The Militarization of Artistic Expression in the Medieval Islamic East," at the Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait. Rabbat also served as discussant on the panel "Gender, Slavery, and Sexuality in Medieval Islamic Society," at the MESA 33rd Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

Professor Rabbat is currently working on two books. The first concerns the problems of representation in Mamluk sources and is tentatively entitled, "Shaping the Mamluk Image: The Scope of the Sources." The second is a study on the fifteenth-century Egyptian historian al-Maqrizi and his Khitat book. It is slated for publication in late 2000 and is tentatively entitled, "Historicizing the City: The Significance of Maqrizi's Khitat of Cairo." He is also co-editing the 1999 Kevorkian Lectures at NYU, which will be published under the title "A Medieval Cairo for A Modern World." He has published numerous essays including: "The Changing Concept of Mamluk in the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt and Syria," in Slave Elites in the Middle East and Africa: A Comparative Study, (eds.) Miura Toru and John Edward Philips (London and New York: Kegan Paul International, 2000); and "The Mosaics of the Qubba al-Zahiriyya in Damascus: A Classical Syrian Medium Acquires a Mamluk Signature," Aram 9—10 (1997—1998 [1999]). He contributed several entries for the Encyclopedia of Islam, the Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, and A Guide to the Late Antique World (Harvard, 1999). He also contributed many essays to the Arabic newspapers al-Hayat, al-Mustaqbal, Akhbar al-Adab, Wughat Nazar on cultural issues, art, architectural history and criticism, as well as reviews of books, exhibitions, and films.

Professor Rabbat was on sabbatical in Cairo, Egypt, during the spring semester. His sabbatical was supported by a fellowship from The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). In Cairo, he gave several lectures on various topics at the following institutions: the American Research Center in Egypt; Ain Shams University, Department of Architecture; the Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale [IFAO]; the Egyptian Historical Society; and the Department of Arabic Studies, American University in Cairo.

Visiting Associate Professor, Hasan-Uddin Khan conducted his fourth seminar at MIT in the Fall of 1999, "Communities of Resistance: Globalization, Tourism & War," concerning the disruptive effects of tourism and war on urban conservation and historic preservation projects. During the summer of 1999, he delivered a talk on the 20th Century architecture of the Middle East to the International UIA congress of Architecture, as well as a presentation of Charles Correa's work at the VIII Panamian Congress of Architecture. In the fall he was a panelist on the Globalization of Asian Cities at the University of Nebraska–the proceedings of which have been published. In the Spring 2000 semester, Khan conducted a workshop on the University of the Middle East (UME)–a real project to be sited in Morocco. Ron Rubin, UME Vice President and Frank McGuire, Principal Cannon, assisted. The workshop provided a forum for three MArch and three SMArchS-AKP students to work on issues of site selection, sustainability and campus planning. Participating critics and speakers included: architects Bruno Freschi and Mozhan Khadem, former Harvard Dean, Henry Rosovsky, Harvard Law School Professor, Henry Steiner, and numerous MIT Professors. Professor Khan continues writing and researching on issues of historic preservation and contemporary architecture in Asia, with particular reference to Islamic cultures.

Howayda al-Harithy was the Visiting Associate Professor for the AKPIA/HTC Spring 2000 semester. Her seminar, "Issues in Islamic Urbanism: Politics of City Formation and Transformation in the Muslim World," investigated issues such as the conception vs. perception of cities, patterns of urbanization, urban morphogenesis, the model of the "Islamic City," and the visual representation of cities. Receiving her Ph.D. from Harvard’s Fine Art Department in 1992, she has held a position in the Department of Architecture and Design at the American University of Beirut since 1994. She was the Aga Khan Visiting Scholar at Harvard during the Summer of 1999. Specializing in Mamluk architectural history she recently published, "The Patronage of al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun" in Mamluk Studies Review 4 (2000). This year, she has published a monograph with the Orient-Institut der Deutschen Morgenlåndischen Gesellschaft titled The Waqf Document of Sultan Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Qalawun, dated 760/1358.

Library Resources

Librarian Omar Khalidi was invited to the Georgetown University Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding for the seminar on "Muslim Community’s Role in American Public Life" in September, 1999. The United States Information Service in Pakistan and Kuwait invited him to show an exhibition on designed mosques in the United States in early 2000. He also lectured on this topic at the Department of Architecture, University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore, at the American Center in Islamabad, Sindh University in Hyderabad, Faisalabad University in Faisalabad, as well as to the Kuwait Engineers Society and to the Kuwait Journalists Union. In April he lectured on the same topic at DePaul University's spring-long series "Exploring Muslim Cultures," supported by the Graham Foundation. He also spoke on Islam in America at Wellesley College sponsored by the Al-Muslimat student organization.

Visual librarian Ahmed Nabal was a consulting archivist to the MIT ArchNet project. In April 2000 he attended the annual meetings of MESA and the Visual Resources Association in San Francisco. He expanded web availability of the visual archives. Nabal also expanded and enhanced several database files in the archives including those for the central collections, student travel grants and Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA). He worked with the MIT Libraries systems office to move and consolidate images and records onto a single MIT Libraries server ( Additions to the archives include 533 slides of significant Iranian monuments in Kashan, Isfahan, Hamadan and Kerman by AKPIA student Mona Fawaz. Nabal organized the Rotch Library exhibit of AKAA awards on display throughout the summer of 1999.



Three Harvard/AKPIA students were awarded Ph.D. degrees in June 2000: Alka Patel, Oya Pancaroglu, and Ahmet Ersoy. Two undergraduate senior theses were awarded to: Lama Jarudi and Jessamyn Conrad.


The Fall 1999 Friends of Islamic Art lecture series hosted: Barry Wood, Independent Scholar, and Nuha N.N. Khoury, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Aga Khan Program Postdoctoral Fellow.

The Spring 2000 series hosted: Robert Ousterhout, School of Architecture, University of Illinois; Yasser Tabbaa, Independent Scholar; Lorenz Korn, Aga Khan Program Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University; and Thomas Leisten, Dept. of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University.

Faculty Research and Teaching Activities

Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture Gülru Necipoglu continues work on her book, Architectural Culture in the Age of Sinan: Decorum, Identity and Memory, to be published by Reaktion Books. She plans to complete the work in 2001-2.

In addition to her teaching responsibilities she gave guest lectures in two team-taught courses in the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Department. On a travel grant from the Palace Arts Foundation she took her core course students to the exhibition "Palace of Gold and Light: Treasures from the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul" at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Additional funding was provided by Harvard/AKPIA.

She was a key participant in an international roundtable workshop which planned the exhibition Portraits of Ottoman Sultans, which opened June 7 at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. Her article "Word and Image: The Serial Portraits of the Ottoman Sultans in Comparative Perspective," appeared in a bi-lingual (English/Turkish) exhibition catalogue. The catalogue also includes her essay on the Portraits of Sultan Selim II. Other publications included a Spanish version of her earlier article "Suleyman the Magnificent and the Representation of Power in the Context of Ottoman-Hapsburg-Papal Rivalry" (originally published in The Art Bulletin, Sept.1989) for the catalogue of the recent exhibition Carlos V. Las Armas y Las Letras at the Alhambra, Granada, Spain.

Lectures delivered included "Monumental Calligraphy in Classical Ottoman Architecture: Transformations in Form and Content" at the Sackler Museum in October 1999, "Art, Empire, and Tradition: the Ottoman Achievement" and "Monumental Calligraphy in the Early Modern Islamic World: Legibility and Meaning" in December 1999 at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Professor Necipoglu continued as Editor of Muqarnas. She also served on the editorial board of RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics.

Professor David Roxburgh began his sabbatical in July 1999 receiving partial support from a J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship. He was also awarded an ARIT-NEH postdoctoral fellowship. During his sabbatical he wrote a book-length study of album-making titled, "In the Realms of Dispersal and Collectedness: Art and Aesthetics in Pre-Modern Iran." He completed a study on the album preface genre to be published in the AKPIA Muqarnas supplement series entitled "Prefacing the Image: The Writing of Art History in Sixteenth-Century Iran" which will be published in late 2000. In addition to lecturing at the LA County Museum, Los Angeles (Ancient Art Council), he also gave one of the Daniel H. Silberberg lectures at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, presenting new research on 15th-century anthologies.

In Fall 1999, he was guest editor of an issue of Muqarnas 17 (2000). An introductory essay as well as his study on the artist Kamal al-Din Bihzad and authorship in Persianate painting was included in this issue. He completed two articles: "The Pen of Depiction: Drawing in 15th- and 16th-century Iran," Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin 8, 1 (Fall, 2000); and "Au Bonheur des Amateurs: Collecting and Exhibiting Islamic Art, ca. 1880—1910," Ars Orientalis 30 (2000). He also wrote entries for an exhibition catalogue to honor collector John Goelet (Forty Years On: Donations by John Goelet, exhibition catalogue [New York: M. T. Train/ Scala Books, 2000], cat. nos. 152, 153, 158, 159—63). This spring he finished, "The Aesthetics of Aggregation: Persian Anthologies of the Fifteenth Century," for Princeton Papers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, special edition Seeing Things: Textuality and Visuality in the Islamic World, eds. Oleg Grabar and Cynthia Robinson (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2000).

Library Resources

The Fine Arts Library had a number of notable acquisitions and renewed their in-class bibliographic instruction unit on resources for the study of Islamic visual culture. As part of its outreach activities, the AKP Documentation Center contributes indexing for Islamic architecture, art, archaeology, and urbanism for Index Islamicus, the leading bibliographic research tool in the field.

Jeff Spurr, who catalogues Islamic Art at the Aga Khan Documentation Center, became a member of the VIA Data Standards Committee, continuing the development of Harvard's online catalogue of visual collections. He was also appointed a member of the OLIVIA Sites Subcommittee, establishing procedures and guidelines for automated cataloguing of architecture. He composed the web page for the Harvard Semitic Museum Photographic Archives found on the Fine Arts Library's website. He is responsible for a major acquisition of 26 rare photographs of Jerusalem and Cairo taken by James Graham between 1855—57. He was active in the ArchNet Development Group and continued his work coordinating the Bosnia Library Project. He initiated the solicitation of donations to restore the destroyed slide collection of the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Sarajevo. With Andras Riedlmayer, he coordinated the visit of Ahmet Gerguri, Director of the National and University Library of Kosovo, to Harvard.

Andras Riedlmayer, Bibliographer in Islamic Art and Architecture launched the Kosovo Cultural Heritage Survey in the summer of 1999. Supported by a grant from the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI), Riedlmayer, Andrew Herscher, and Genc Samimi, Director of the Atelier for the Protection of Cultural Monuments in Albania, spent three weeks in Kosovo documenting the state of cultural and religious heritage in the aftermath of war. The resulting documentation–more than 2,000 photographs, architectural plans, and texts–will be made available in database form on the ArchNet website. Riedlmayer organized the exhibition, "Burned Books and Blasted Shrines: Cultural Heritage under Fire in Kosovo," at the Harvard Fine Arts Library April—July 2000, which was featured in the July—August 2000 issue of the Art Newspaper (London). Riedlmayer and Herscher also organized the first projects for protecting and reconstructing damaged historic buildings in Kosovo.


In addition to its regular duties, the Central Office provided start-up assistance to the AKTC funded, and MIT-based, ArchNet project. Organizational support was provided to Aga Khan Professor Nasser Rabbat and Visiting Professors Hasan-Uddin Khan and Howayda al-Harithy for their invited lecturers, students, and AKPIA related professional/academic outreach activities.

MIT/AKPIA Summer 2000 Travel Grants were awarded to three students. In addition, travel awards were given to two students to enable them to participate in the Mostar 2000 Workshop.

AKPIA conference proceedings, Rethinking the 19th Century City, and Bukhara: The Source, the Myth, the Architecture and Urban Fabric, appeared in print in the second half of 1999. The fourth, and last, conference proceedings, The Courtyard House and the Urban Fabric was sent to the editors for final preparation. In late Spring 2000 the 20th Anniversary AKPIA Newsletter was printed and distributed to 2000 recipients worldwide. Supported by AKTC Grant "Outreach Activity" funds Muqarnas 16 appeared in Fall 1999, edited by Prof. Gülru Necipoglu. Muqarnas Supplement 8, "The Garden of Mosques: Hafiz Huseyin al-Ayvansarayi's Guide to the Muslim Monuments of Ottoman Istanbul," edited, annotated and translated by Howard Crane appeared in Winter 1999.

AKPIA supported MIT student participation in the Adapazari workshop, a project for the development of socially and environmentally sustainable housing for victims of Turkey’s 1999 earthquake. Working in the past with students on sustainable development projects in Latin America, China, and the Hunza Valley of Pakistan, MIT Professor Jan Wampler led a workshop which demonstrated how small scale communities can use appropriate sustainable development within local cultural, environmental, seismic and economic constraints. Istanbul presentations served to develop a final design framework and seek material and financial support for implementation in summer 2000.

The MIT School of Architecture received support from the Trust for Mutual Understanding for Interpolations: New Housing Designs for Post-War Bosnia-Herzegovina. Evolving out of the 1997—1999 AKPIA/Sarajevo Reconstruction Initiative, the project will utilize remote-site technology to design contemporary housing that will complement Sarajevo’s urban fabric, historical patrimony and built environment. Deans and faculty from the University of Sarajevo, Yildiz Technical University, Istanbul, and MIT will guide student teams. Slated to begin in the fall of 2000, AKPIA is still seeking institutional gifts to match the TMU grant to support student travel for on-site workshops.

AKPIA sponsored the Harvard Center for the Study of World Religion May symposium "Reinterpreting Shamanism: New Criteria for Research and Analysis" and a MIT Muslim Students Association’s public lecture "Order and Balance in Islamic Architecture" by Dr. Sami Angawi.

More information about is program can be found on the World Wide Web at

Nasser Rabbat

MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000