Fall 2013 Abstracts & Bios

Lectures, Conferences & Events» Past Lectures & Events

Richard Gönci
Mega-Projects in Islamic Countries: At the Crossroads of Modernity and Tradition?
As filmmakers and visualization artists, studio amd has been honored to produce a number of motion-art pieces to support major development initiatives in Islamic nations in several domains: education, city-planning, and energy sustainability.
While each was challenging in scope and scale, a few stand out by virtue of the dynamic accommodations required to successfully meld considerations of culture and tradition with the elevated lifestyle expectations of modern Islamic societies.
Three projects, and their attendant short films, provide a lens through which to appreciate the challenges faced by designers and planners who usually proceed from a more “Western” aesthetic:
Coeur de Lion  (rt: 2:24)
We were commissioned by architect/designer Michael Graves to portray his master plan for a new “city within a city” in Dakar, Senegal. Then President, Abdoulaye Wade, and his cabinet were the film’s only audience at its premiere. The real agenda of the piece was to win the support of a previously skeptical subset of that very cabinet for this effort.
Aflaj al Foah  (rt: 2:31)
Conceived as both a viable commercial development in its own right, and as a means to address tensions surrounding unfulfilled Emirati traditional birthright landhold promises, this project was driven by the renowned master planning firm Torti-Gallis out of DC. A study in “unintended consequences,” the proposal was perhaps too successful…insofar as the project was subsequently co-opted by a relative of the hereditary ruler, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Princess Nora Bint Abdul Rahman University (rt: 6:23)
The world’s largest university for women (and the world’s largest construction project to date) was completed in fewer than 800 days. The aggressive pace of construction was driven in part by fears of Saudi ruler, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, of his own somewhat failing health and, hence, the possibility that this very progressive institution (in Saudi terms) might not be inaugurated under a different ruler. Perkins + Will were the principal designers of the academic core. Many unusual accommodations had to be made to maintain complete separation of the female students from male faculty and staff.

Zeynep Kezer
Producing a Borderscape: Social and Spatial Engineering in Early Republican Elazig
This presentation examines the emergence of Elaz?g, a small Eastern Anatolian town, as an internal border within the national borders of Turkey in the 1930s when Kurdish tribes in the neighboring Dersim province, who had long-standing autonomous structures of governance and ethnic and religious solidarity, rose up against the state’s centralizing and assimilationist policies. Anxious to consolidate its authority, the government of the newly formed and still fragile Turkish nation-state responded with overwhelming force, mounting a devastating air campaign that destroyed a third of the villages in the province. It also cordoned off Dersim, forcibly evacuating survivors to Western Turkey. Thereafter, travel beyond Elaz?g into this combat zone required special military permits akin to an internal passport. Railroads, touted primarily as instruments of market integration and defense against foreign aggression, were used to ferry troops to battle and Dersimis out of their homelands. New surveillance and communication technologies—including reconnaissance flights surveying the land and tracking movements, gendarme stations equipped with searchlights for signaling across long distances—transformed the rugged terrain between Dersim and Elaz?g into a highly militarized landscape. Finally, Elaz?g’s state-run cultural and educational establishments, which, despite their formal similarities to their counterparts elsewhere in Turkey, engendered distinctive practices of sorting, detention and public shaming, thereby reinforcing the asymmetries between the Turkish and Kurdish populations through enactment. A critical study of these military, infrastructural, and institutional structures and the functions they sustained establishes Elaz?g as a liminal site revealing the limits of the state’s central authority, the brittleness of its official ideology and the incoherence of its attempts to suppress Kurdish identities.
Zeynep Kezer is the MArchDegree Program Director at Newcastle University, UK. (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/apl/staff/profile/zeynep.kezer)
She received a BArch from Middle East Technical University in Ankara, and an MArch and a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. She has published articles variously as book chapters and in journals, including Journal of Architectural Education, Society and Space (Environment and Planning D), and the Built Environment. Her book "Building the Nation-State: State, Space and Ideology in Early Republican Turkey" forthcoming in 2014, will be published by the University of Pittsburgh as part of the Politics, Culture and the Built Environment. 
She is currently at the initial stages of a new research project focusing on Eastern Turkey, where the new state had a particularly hard time gaining a foothold. During her stay at MIT/AKPIA she will be working on encounters between the region's Kurdish population and representatives of the central authority and on the lingering presence of Armenians and their heritage in the region, two decades after the 1915 massacres and deportations.

Antonio Rotolo
Islamic landscapes in the Trapani Mountains (Sicily)
This lecture will discuss the results of the Idrisi Project, a multidisciplinary study of the landscape, the material culture and the rural settlement patterns in the Mountains of Trapani (Sicily) during the Middle Ages, with particular attention to the Islamic period (9th-11th century). The multidisciplinary approach to landscape by archaeological means will be emphasized, rather than a site or monument-centric approach.
The archeological findings in the unparalleled number of settlements that flourished in this territory during the Islamic period will be used to propose new insights in the relation between settlements and the exploitation of the environmental resources. The last part of the lecture will examine the effects of the conquering feudal Normans on the existing Islamic settlements.
Antonio Rotolo earned his BA and MA in Archaeology from the University of Tuscia; later he received a second MA and a PhD in Medieval History from the University of Granada. Besides being an affiliated scholar in the Department of Medieval History at the University of Granada, Antonio is currently a Postdoctoral fellow at Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT and field director of the Idrisi Project-ARPATRA in Sicily. In his resume are numerous archaeological collaborations with renowned universities both in Italy and Spain. 
Antonio is a Medieval and Islamic Archaeologist specialized in the study of complex societies and socio-cultural theories. Antonio advocates an interdisciplinary methodological approach, including Archaeological Prospection, GIS based Spatial Analysis, Archaeological Land Evaluation, ceramic and material culture studies, Archaeological Excavation, Pedology, Archaeobotany, etc. 
Italy and the Iberian peninsulas are the principal locations where he carries out his research. 
For a full CV and a list of his publication please visit his academia.edu profile