Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture

The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (AKPIA) was established in 1979 through a generous endowment from His Highness The Aga Khan. 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. Our mission is 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. AKPIA also promotes the visibility of pan-Islamic architectural, artistic, and cultural heritage.

Endowments at Harvard University and MIT support parallel AKPIA professorships, doctoral scholarships, and library and archive collections. Funding, in the form of annual Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) grants, supports graduate degree study, research, administrative and outreach activities. Since the program's inception one hundred and twenty-six graduates have been awarded Doctoral or Master's degrees in the study of Islamic art and architecture. Today's current graduate student population numbers twenty-eight advanced degree candidates.

Harvard Aga Khan Professor Gülru Necipoglu and MIT Aga Khan Professor Nasser Rabbat direct the academic and research programming of their respective institutions. They oversee AKPIA's research and publications, organize annual lecture series and conferences, and sponsor visiting scholars and professors throughout the academic calendar year. Other AKPIA professorships include a junior professorship at MIT and the recently endowed Aga Khan Professorship of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism in Islamic Societies at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

A recent addition to our donor's educational and cultural mission has been the AKTC's sponsorship of ArchNet. A flagship web site project being developed by the MIT School of Architecture in collaboration with MIT Press, ArchNet fosters an online community of architects, planners, urban designers, landscape architects, and scholars researching the Islamic world. The site promotes the communication and sharing of resources among international scholars and professionals. Currently, more than 1,700 online subscribers from over 65 countries are accessing ArchNet's resources and virtual workspaces.

The following summarizes the academic and research activities of the MIT Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture.


Five S.M.Arch.S. students were enrolled in the S.M.Arch.S. program under the sponsorship of AKPIA. Two candidates completed their degree requirements and graduated: Yasmine Abbas and Bianca Nardella. The three continuing candidates are: Imdat As, Cagla Hadimioglu, and Jateen Lad. MIT Aga Khan Professor Nasser Rabbat is supervising the above theses. He also supervised the theses of Shundana Yusaf and Marianne de Klerk, who won the MIT Spring 2000 best thesis award.

Doctoral students sponsored by AKPIA in the History, Theory and Criticism Program are: Maha Yahya, Lara Tohme, Panayiota Pyla, Talin Der-Grigorian, Glaire D. Anderson, and newly admitted Ph.D. student Michele Lamprakos.

AKPIA student Iffet Orbay defended her thesis in December 2000 and the following students continue work toward their degrees: Maha Yahya, Lara Tohme, Panayiota Pyla, Talin Der-Grigorian, Glaire D. Anderson and Michele Lamprakos.

Ph.D. theses supervised by Professor Nasser Rabbat are: Lara Tohme, Stacy Holden, Stephen Wolf and Zayde Antrim.

AKPIA/MIT AKPIA 2001-2002 Travel Grants were awarded to Michele Lamprakos HTC Ph.D., Glaire D. Anderson HTC Ph.D., Amina Razvi M.Arch. and Cagla Hadimioglu S.M.Arch.S..


Aga Khan Professor Nasser Rabbat organized the fall 2000 and spring 2001 MIT/AKPIA "An Evening With Lecture Series." Fall 2000 lecturers were: Dr. Sabine Kraft, Architect, Ludwig Althaus Firm, Marburg-Michelbach, Germany; Professor Miki Desai, School of Architecture, Centre for Environment Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad, India; Professor Yasser Tabbaa, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Professor Renata Holod, History of Art Department, University of Pennsylvania.

Spring 2001 lecturers were: Dr. Abidin Kusno, Metropolitan Studies Program, New York University; Dr. Ruba Kana'an, Barakat Trust Fellow in Islamic Art and Archeology Oriental Institute, Oxford, UK; Dr. Heghnar Watenpaugh, Department of Art and History, Rice University; Dr. William J. Glover, Department of Architecture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Dr. Kishwar Rizvi, Post-Graduate Fellow, Yale University; Professor Machiel Kiel, Harvard Aga Khan Visiting Scholar and Professor, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands; Dr. Shirine Hamadeh, NEH/ARIT Post-Doctoral Fellowship, American Research Institute in Turkey; and Dr. Howayda Al-Harithy, Dept. of Architecture and Design, American University of Beirut.

AKPIA students presented research during the spring 2001 semester. AKPIA HTC Ph.D. candidate Panayiota I Pyla presented her work carried out in Syria and Greece on the environmental concepts in the works of C.A. Doxiadis and Hasan Fathy. AKPIA Summer 2000 Travel Grantees presented their research in April: Bianca Maria Nardella, "Traveling the Balkans"; Yasmine Abbas, "Mostar, Ville Ecorchée"; Marianne de Klerk, "Historicizing the Landscape: Recovering the Aesthetics of the Alhambra."

In February, AKPIA sponsored, with MIT/HTC and the Women's Studies Program/Anthropology, a lecture by Miriam Cooke, "The Political Aesthetics of Destruction: Re-representing Beirut 1975-1995."

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AKPIA organized the May symposium, "Exploring the Frontiers of Islamic Art and Architecture." The two-day event was well attended. The symposium explored artistic and architectural transformations on the Islamic frontiers: territorial, conceptual, and cultural.

Opening remarks were presented by Architecture Department Head Stanford Anderson and MIT/AKPIA Professor Nasser Rabbat. Speakers included: Oleg Grabar, Princeton and Harvard University; Nasser Rabbat, MIT; Finbarr Barry Flood, National Gallery of Art; Michael W. Meister, University of Pennsylvania; Priscilla Soucek, New York University; Cynthia Robinson, University of New Mexico; and Jamal Elias.

Faculty Research and Teaching Activities

Professor Nasser Rabbat, Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Architecture, taught "Issues of Medieval Islamic Urbanism" in the spring 2001 semester. This course focuses on the city as a major element in the understanding of Islamic history.

In addition to teaching, Professor Rabbat served on the following committees at MIT: Academic Director, ArchNet; Director, Aga Khan Program; Chair, Aga Khan Travel Grants Committee; Convenor, "An Evening With," lecture series; Chair, Aga Khan Career Development Professor Search Committee; Member, HTC Admissions Committee; and Member, Committee on Faculty Administration. He also served as a Member of the Aga Khan Landscape Design Professor Search Committee at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University.

Professor Rabbat continues to publish prolifically in journals and books as well as in Arabic newspapers. His publications include "Maqrizi's Khitat: An Egyptian Lieu de Mémoire" in The Cairo Heritage.Papers in Honor of Layla Ali Ibrahim, ed. Doris Behrens-Abouseif (Cairo, AUC Press, 2001), 17-30; "Islamic Architecture: Trying to Break out of the Old Paradigm," (in Arabic) Majallat al-Funun 1 (January 2001): 39-41; "Architecture and Memory: An Invitation to Think," (in Arabic) Wughat Nazar 23 (December 2000): 62-64; "Representing the Mamluks in Mamluk Historical Writing," in The Historiography of Islamic Egypt, c. 950-1800, Hugh Kennedy, ed. (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 2000), 59-75; "Remarks on the Document, Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past, Did the Pope Apologize to the Muslims?" (in Arabic) Wughat Nazar 18 (July 2000): 46-49; "Adonis, l'homme critique et poéte d'un même souffle," in Adonis, un poète dans le monde d'aujourd'hui, 1950-2000 (Paris: Institut du Monde Arabe, 2000), 314-16 and "Restoration Projects in Islamic Cairo Critiqued," in Medina 13 (May-June 2000): 48-51.

In May 2001 Professor Rabbat participated in the seminar "Islam and Urban Culture in Egypt" organized by the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS) and the Centre for Islamic Art and Archaeology in Oxford (CIAAO), Oxford, England, on the topic "History, the City, and Criticism: Maqrizi and his Book on the Khitat." April 2001 he participated in Conversation on the Future of the Humanities in American Universities, American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS in New York and he was co-organizer and discussant for "Architectural Education Today," The 8th Architecture and Behavior Colloquium in Monte Verita, Ascona, Switzerland. During the past year he also gave lectures to graduate students on the Islamic City at the School of History, University of Fez SAIS, and on Maqrizi and the writing on urban history in the Arabic/Islamic tradition at the School of History, University Muhammad V, Rabat, in Morocco.

Dr. Nuha Khoury, Visiting Assistant Professor in the fall of 2000, taught "Religious Architecture in Islamic Cultures". Professor Khoury received her Ph.D. at Harvard in 1992, and currently teaches at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Dr. Jerrilyn Dodds, Visiting Associate Professor in the spring of 2001, is Professor of Architectural History and Theory at the School of Architecture of the City College of the City University of New York. Her work centers on issues of artistic interchange and identity, and the problems surrounding art and minorities in pluralistic societies. She has worked extensively in Spain, Bosnia and New York City and is known as a distinguished author, curator and filmmaker.

Visiting Professor Hasan-Uddin Khan taught in the spring of 2001 "Conservation—Extreme Architectural Conservation in the Face of Globalization, War and Tourism." The seminar examined international contemporary practices of restoration, conservation and reuse with special reference to extreme situations where the globalization process suppresses architectural and community identity. Loss factors brought about by conflict, war, and tourism were examined. The course sought to understand, and illustrate through case studies the principles and directions of conservation efforts.

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Library Resources

The AKPIA Rotch Library and Visual collections continue to review the visual teaching collections, and through collection development enrich the visual archives. Books and visual materials collection development included works of all periods on Islamic cities, studies of conservation and preservation, and modern critical editions of older works on architecture and urbanism in the Muslim world. For the visual collections a critical review of major areas in the teaching collections was undertaken to upgrade older materials and add to specific areas of Cairo, Jerusalem, and other major historic cities. Additions to the visual archives included several collections covering sites in Iran, Singapore and India. The Islamic Architecture web page continues to evolve and serves as a teaching and reference resource by universities throughout North America and Europe.

The School of Architecture, American University of Sharjah, UAE invited Omar Khalidi to lecture and show an exhibition on Designed Mosques of North America. At the request of the U.S. Department of State he also spoke to an audience at the University of Bahrain's School of Architecture and Planning and at the School of Arts in Doha, Qatar. With Visual Collections Archivist, Ahmed Nabal, he attended the Fall 2000 Middle East Librarians Association annual meeting in Orlando. In the fall of 2000 Khalidi visited Dhaka for a seminar on Architecture and Tourism and the International Book Fair and served as a discussant on innovation in mosque design panel in Kashan.

AKPIA Central Office Report

The Central Office provided organizational support to MIT Aga Khan Professor Nasser Rabbat and visiting professors Nuha Khoury, Jerrilyn Dodds, and Hasan Khan. Further support was made available to invited lecturers, students, and visiting colleagues.

Throughout late-summer 2000, the Central Office donated comprehensive monograph collections of AKPIA and AKPIA-related publications from its archives to the ArchNet project. Sequential volumes of Muqarnas, Mimar, AKPIA research monographs, newsletters, and Annual Reports were unbound for digital scanning. Projects were also underway to retrospectively document AKPIA publications, published theses, lectures, awards, and alumni records. The information was compiled electronically. A comprehensive joint-program alumni and current degree student survey was submitted to the MIT Aga Khan Professor in April.

Two meetings of the AKPIA Executive Committee took place during the fall 2000 semester to discuss governance and planning issues. New members joining the Executive Committee were Harvard Dean Peter Ellison, succeeding former Dean Wolff and Harvard Professor Wheeler Thackston who assumed the seat vacated by Harvard Professor Susan Miller.

AKPIA supported the MIT Graduate Student Council Turkish classical music performance by Cambridge Musiki Cemiyeti in November. The AKPIA assistant to the director assisted fundraising efforts for Interpolations: New Housing Designs for Post-War Bosnia-Herzegovina. A three-year project development funded from outside foundations, teams from MIT School of Architecture, the University of Sarajevo and Yildiz Technical University participated throughout the academic year in a remote-site design collaboration. Participants met for final project reviews at MIT in May 2001.

The past year's AKPIA staffing comprised the full-time assistant to the director, Alberto Balestrieri, our half-time administrative assistant Robert Marlatt and a new half-time senior office assistant, Jose Luis Arguello, who replaced Michelle Woodward who left in the fall of 2000 to pursue MIT graduate studies.

Nasser Rabbat

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