MIT Reports to the President 1996-97


In 1979 the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA) was established as a joint MIT/Harvard University program through the generous support of His Highness, the Aga Khan. The AKPIA is dedicated to the research and teaching of architecture and urbanism in countries with Islamic cultures. Endowed program funds and annual funds from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture provide support for faculty, student financial aid, library facilities, research, teaching projects, conference activities, fieldwork, publications, and outreach to a network of institutions and people in the field of architecture and urbanism. AKPIA teaching and research spans a broad geographical range: from Southern Europe and North Africa to Southeast Asia, as well as a broad historical range including the pre-classical antecedents of Islamic architecture through its historical development in the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East, and Asia into the Modern Period.

The central administration office, located at MIT, coordinates AKPIA activities, at both MIT and Harvard University, and maintains exchanges of fiscal and substantive information with the donor, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva. During the 1996-97 academic year the MIT office continued its communications and outreach work for the program. Internal coordination of student, faculty, visiting scholars, and staff activities was carried out under the supervision of the Acting Director and Aga Khan Professor Attilio Petruccioli.


The 1996-1997 MIT lecture series was organized by Professor Attilio Petruccioli. The fall series included talks by Andre Raymond, University Aix-en-Provence; Susan Miller, Harvard University; and Maurice Cerasi, University of Genoa. The spring series included talks by Mauro Bertagnin, University of Udine; Aleksandr Naymark, Indiana University; Eugenio Galdieri, University of Rome; Renata Holod, University of Pennsylvania; Maurizio Tosi, University of Bologna; and Ebba Koch, Art Historian. Lectures were also given by AKPIA Visiting Scholar Shakeel Hossain and former Visiting Scholar Amir Pasic.

Organized by Rotch Visual Collection Librarian, Ahmed Nabal, the AKPIA exhibition, "The Aga Khan Awards for Architecture: Selection of Seven Projects from the Sixth Award Cycle (1992-1995)." was displayed at MIT from September through December 1996.

In November 1996 "Ritual Architecture and Urbanity: The Ephemeral, the Transient, the Static," an exhibit curated by AKPIA Visiting Scholar Shakeel Hossain, arrived at MIT from its Spring 1996 debut at the Milan Triennial 19th International Exposition. This exhibit of ritual structures and photographs from India, was shown at the MIT Wolk Gallery and Rotch Library through February 1997. This project, funded by the AKPIA and the New Delhi National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, is traveling to the University of Pennsylvania in September 1997.

Visiting Associate Professor Hassan-Uddin Khan coordinated and co-curated "Modernities and Memories: Recent Works from the Islamic World" which opened at the Venice Biennale in June 1997. The first BV entry of its kind, artists of Islamic milieu from Canada to Indonesia exhibited recent works contributing, through contemporary artistic expression, to a formidable dialogue concerning cultural identity and pluralism. This event received its primary support from the Rockefeller Foundation. Organizers are investigating a number North American and international venues as possible exhibition sites for these works.

Harvard Aga Khan Professor Gülru Necipoglu, in collaboration with Barry Wood, developed the Sackler Museum exhibit "Sewn Together by Peace of Mind: Islamic Album Pages from Harvard's Collections," which ran from March to June 1997.

Three international conferences and a roundtable discussion were held during the academic year. In October 1996 Attilio Petruccioli and Associate AKPIA Professor Nasser Rabbat organized the roundtable discussion, "From Antiquity to Islam in the Cities of al-Andalus and al-Mashriq." Hugh Kennedy from the University of Saint Andrews was key speaker. The event brought architectural historians, archaeologists, architects, and urban planners together to discuss the historical crosscurrents of Syrian and Spanish cities from Roman incorporation through later Islamic periods of development.

The first AKPIA international conference of the academic year, "Urban Triumph or Urban Disaster? Dilemmas of Contemporary Post-War Reconstruction," was held in September 1996 and organized by Jon Calame and Esther Charlesworth. This symposium received financial support from the Kress Foundation and the Trust for Mutual Understanding. This event stimulated post-conference dialogues resulting in a pilot Sarajevo fieldwork project addressing issues of post-war reconstruction.

"Bukhara: The Source, the Myth, the Architecture and the Urban Fabric," was held in November 1996 and was organized by Attilio Petruccioli to allow scholars from the Uzbekistan Republic to discuss their work with colleagues from around the world. Financial support was provided by the Kress and Graham foundations.

Organized by Attilio Petruccioli in April 1997 the AKPIA international symposium, "The Courtyard House and Urban Fabric," drew together 13 invited lecturers and 16 discussion participants from around the world. This conference covered issues of development and transformation of the courtyard house type, its relationship to change in urban fabric, its application as a typological form, and its relevance to contemporary design.

Harvard University Aga Khan Professor Gülru Necipoglu sponsored a number of speakers for the "Friends of Islamic Art Lecture Series." Post-doctoral Research Fellows who contributed lectures in their areas of specialization were Omur Bakirer, Inci Aslanoglu, Tulay Artan, and Barry Flood. This series also included the following distinguished speakers: Marianne Barrucand (University of Paris-Sorbonne), Priscilla Soucek (NYU-Institute of Fine Arts), and Reza Sheikh (Director, City Photography Museum of Tehran).

During June 1996, Professor Petruccioli conducted a fieldwork project with MIT students on the walled towns of Como, Italy and Essaouira, Morocco. This study was integral to the preparation of a studio workshop concerning the historical contexts of urban situations for the Fall 1996 semester.

In January 1997 the AKPIA conducted fieldwork in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Attilio Petruccioli and MIT students traveled to Uzbekistan for a study financed jointly by the Kress Foundation and the AKPIA. This research concerned the development of an atlas comprising built forms and construction techniques in Bukhara.

Students with summer 1997 AKPIA travel grants are conducting individual research Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jordan, Morocco, Russia, Tunisia, and Turkey.


The AKPIA Committee, charged with policy decisions included: Stanford Anderson, Head, Department of Architecture, MIT (AKPIA Chair); William A. Graham, Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard; Philip S. Khoury, Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, MIT; William Mitchell, Dean, School of Architecture and Planning, MIT; Gülru Necipoglu, Aga Khan Professor, Harvard; Attilio Petruccioli, Aga Khan Professor and AKPIA Acting Director, MIT; William L. Porter, Leventhal Professor of Architecture and Planning, MIT; Nasser Rabbat, Aga Khan Development Professor, History Theory and Criticism Program, Department of Architecture, MIT; Andras Riedlmayer, Aga Khan Program Bibliographer, Fine Arts Library, Harvard; David Roxburgh, Assistant Professor of Fine Arts, Harvard; Merrill Smith, Associate Rotch Librarian, MIT; Irene Winter, Chair, Department of Fine Arts, Harvard; and Christoph Wolff, Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard.

Attilio Petruccioli is the MIT Aga Khan Professor and Acting Director of the Program. Robert Marlatt is charged with AKPIA fiscal operations as senior staff assistant. Dina Freedman continued as part-time senior secretary through June 1997. Alberto Balestrieri was appointed as Assistant to the Director in May 1997.


In 1996-97, four AKPIA students participated in the Concentration in Architectural Studies of the Islamic World component of the Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS) degree program: Zarminae Ansari, Minakshi Mani, Yonca Kosebay and Georgiy Levashov. Tuition and living expenses for the SMArchS students at MIT were funded in whole or in part by AKPIA funds. Zarminae Ansari graduated in May 1997.

Student reflection and debate focused on both practical and theoretical issues concerning the architectural characteristics of non-western societies. Students were encouraged to compare traditional Islamic architectural forms and structures with those developed after the spread and application of Western ideas in modern times. They considered appropriate responses to climate, building materials, and building technology as well as the socio-cultural attitudes and values that directly relate inhabitants to their environment.

In the fall semester, students participated in a level III architectural design studio,

"Architectural Design Studio: Islamic Societies: Como and Essaouira-A Center of Learning," led by Professor Petruccioli. This course compared old and new in the old walled cities of Essaouria (Morocco) and Como (Italy). Professor Petruccioli also taught the design workshop, "Architecture and the Urban Context: Traditions, Conflicts and Change: Typological Process and Built Form." This method and theory oriented course introduced students to more advanced architectural, urban and, territorial concepts of typological forms. In the spring Professor Petruccioli conducted two workshops. The first, "Special Problems in Non-Western Architecture: Form and Culture of Indian Cities," was co-taught with Visiting Scholar Shakeel Hossain; and, the second, "Architectural Design Workshop: Bukhara: The Language of Masonry and Vault Systems" served as further preparation for continued fieldwork in Uzbekistan.

AKPIA doctoral students in the History, Theory and Criticism Program (HTC) were: Lara Tohme, Kishwar Rizvi, Pani Pyla, Maha Yahya, Shrinie Hamadeh and Iffet Orbay. Tuition and living expenses for the Cambridge residential doctoral students at MIT were funded in whole or part by the AKPIA endowed scholarship fund.

Nasser Rabbat, Assistant Professor in History of Islamic Architecture, was awarded a Fellowship to the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, Spring 1997.

During the fall of 1996, Assistant Professor Sibel Bozdogan co-taught, with Nasser Rabbat, "The Making of the Discourse on Islamic Architecture." In the spring she taught: "1650 to the Present: Architecture and Post-Colonial Identity."


During 1996-97, the AKPIA hosted two visiting scholars. Khalil Pirani's research on Mosque architecture in North America was funded by the American Institute of Architects. Shakeel Hossain continued his work on his Ta'zia project, traveling to India, the 19th Milan Triennial International Exhibition, and MIT with his exhibit "Ritual Architecture and Urbanity."


Endowed AKPIA funds allowed the Rotch Architecture Library to acquire over 500 new titles for its collection. The Rotch Visual Collections (RVC) continued to provide reference and informational assistance to patrons throughout the world. The AKPIA librarians, Omar Khalidi and Ahmed Nabal, published "Library Materials Acquired 1993-96" a bibliographical synopsis and guide to AKPIA resource acquisitions. They also designed and implemented an important RVC website that includes links to textual and visual resources on Islamic architecture at MIT. Now available on line are "World-Wide Tour Of Islamic Monuments" and "Designed Mosques in the United States." Omar Khalidi and Ahmed Nabal presented their paper "Science and Islam," in Kuala Lumpur and visited Aga Khan Trust for Culture Headquarters in Geneva.

AKPIA Harvard Fine Arts Library colleagues Jeffrey Spurr and András Reidlmayer have been active in the review and management of the Harvard Semitic Museum Photographic Archives. They assisted the Brooklyn Museum, University of Nebraska, and to the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Library in Geneva with classification and technical projects. In addition to procuring acquisitions, organizing small exhibits, and soliciting new, private donations they initiated a post-war restoration project with the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo. They are working with Attilio Petruccioli and the MIT Department of Architecture to seek underwriting for this project and to develop an exchange program with partner institutions in Sarajevo.

Attilio Petruccioli

MIT Reports to the President 1996-97