Spring 2007 Abstracts & Bios

Lectures, Conferences & Events» Past Lectures & Events

Esra Akcan
New Town-New Life: Garden City in Translation 
This lecture presents a theory of translation in architecture, and explores the history of cross-cultural exchanges that transformed the land settlement policies and residential culture in Turkey and Germany. As an example of architectural translation, it traces the transportation and reception of the garden city theory in Berlin, Ankara and Istanbul during the first half of the twentieth century, as well as its hybridizations with the existing residential types and life patterns. Translation is elaborated here as a field of study that explores the details of cultural exchanges, and one that evaluates different experiences of the "other," of the outside, in a given context. Architectural translation is a contested contact zone that not only makes cross- cultural dialogues possible but also reveals the tensions and conflicts created by the perceived inequalities between places. In explaining the Turkish experience, I put forward a theory of melancholy to refer to one of these tensions, and further elaborate on the concept to critically evaluate the popular prejudgment that translation is the medium where the "authenticity of the original gets lost." This theory of cultural translation is intended as a contribution to our understanding of modernization of the world at large, as well as a contribution to our comprehension of the potentials and conflicts integral to globalization. Translation studies invalidate global/local as well as West/non-West oppositions, emphasizing instead the intertwined histories of modernization. As such, this lecture aspires to show how translation makes history.
Born in Ankara, Esra Akcan now lives in New York, where she works as a postdoctoral core lecturer at Columbia University. Akcan received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture from Middle East Technical University, and her MPhil and Ph.D from Columbia University. Akcan received numerous awards and fellowships including Columbia University Doctoral Scholarship (1998-2005), Graham Foundation-Carter Manny Award of Special Recognition (2003), Mellon Foundation Fellowship (2002), DAAD (2001-2002), Kinne Travel Grant (2002), KRESS/ARIT Fellowship (2000), and Special Mention at "Cem Culture House Architectural Competition" (with Mualla Erk?l?ç, 1996). She taught history-theory classes, architectural and landscape design studios at Columbia University, New School, Pratt Institute, METU, and did yearly doctoral research in Germany through Berlin Technical University. Akcan has various published articles in journals and books such as New German Critique, Journal of Architecture, Architectural Design (Great Britain) , Architectural Theory Review (Australia) , Centropa, 9/11 New York-Istanbul, Arredamento Mimarl?k, XXI, Domus m, Mimarl?k, Defter, Toplum Bilim, Studios, (Turkey) . She guest edited a special issue on globalization for Domus m (February-Mach 2001) and published ( Land ) Fill Istanbul. Twelve Scenarios for a Global City (2004) . She is currently finishing both the English and Turkish version of her book Modernity in Translation and co-writing a textbook on modern Turkish architecture (with Sibel Bozdogan) . 

Nadia Al-Hasani 
“Mysterious” Dubai 
Nadia is a Research Fellow at the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Art and Architecture - MIT and Professor of Architecture at the American University of Sharjah. She completed her graduate studies in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and MIT and has held teaching positions at University of Pennsylvania, Miami of Florida, Notre Dame, and Michigan. Nadia was the recipient of the 1990-91 Willard A. Oberdick Fellowship in the Building Sciences from the University of Michigan; the 1992 Graham Foundation Grant; and the 1994 National ACSA Faculty Teaching Award. 
She teaches design and technology with research interests that focus on theories of technology and production, design through construction, cross-cultural and inter-disciplinary dialogues, and the architecture and planning of the non-Western World. She has lectured and been published widely in the field of architectural production, technology and culture, and most recently, architectural education. 

Ralph Bodenstein
Status, Gender, Privacy. The Transformation of Domestic Culture in the Beirut House, 1860-1930
The rapid economic and political rise of Beirut during the 19 th century led to massive population growth and urban expansion. Newcomers and social risers profoundly transformed the city's demographic and socio-economic composition. These changes also affected everyday domestic culture and its material expression. Social distinction and displays of wealth and status became increasingly important for both the growing classes of social risers and the established elites. At the same time, the horizon of available models was widening considerably, encompassing Istanbuli-Ottoman upper class culture and various European influences. Most conspicuously, a new form of domestic architecture - a local variation of the Ottoman sofa (or central-hall) house - proliferated among the city's wealthy and began to visually dominate the new suburbs. While such processes of cultural change have mostly been explained as Europeanization or Westernization, this presentation takes a different perspective. It examines upper-class houses not as static monuments to social status and wealth, but as evolving and changing structures that are closely interlinked with processes of social change on the level of the households and by extension, of urban society at large. More specifically, it draws upon extensive field research and case studies of houses in Beirut to explore changing forms of sociability (including gendered sociability) and social relations and tensions within the households, and how these were reconfigured in domestic space. 
Ralph Bodenstein is a post-doc fellow at the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Cairo. He holds a PhD in Architectural History from the Technical University of Berlin (TU Berlin) and an MA in Islamic Studies, History of Islamic Art, and Urban Planning from the University of Bonn. He also received a certificate in Building Archaeology and Conservation Studies from TU Berlin. His research interests include the study of material culture as a source for social and cultural history, the uses of oral history in architectural history as well as notions of everyday life and its relations to the built environment.
His doctoral dissertation focuses the transformation of domestic culture in 19 th - and 20 th century Beirut. He has conducted extensive research on the urban, architectural and social history of Beirut and Saida as a research fellow at the German Orient Institute Beirut (OIB) and has published articles on these topics. 

Deeba Haider
Auctioning Identity to the Highest Bidder
From Bedouin to Babylon in 35 years: The Degeneration of Cultural Identity in the Urban Environment of Dubai
Deeba Haider is a consultant on cultural planning and urban strategy. She is currently based in Los Angeles.
In many up and coming global cities around the world, economic pressures and the speed of development have resulted in a decline in the value of cultural integrity and authenticity in the built environment. To garner world attention and attain financial success, cultural identities in these cities have been reduced to that which can be commercialized and deemed profitable. With the unlimited funds and land available to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the leader of Dubai, this situation is especially acute in this tiny hyper-active Emirate. In this talk, we will analyze initial attempts to create some form of a pan-Islamic architectural identity in Dubai, leading to what has now become an urban culture of theatrical excess and extremes. We will also explore whether a city built primarily to attract wealthy tourists and businesses can be sustained and what the repercussions of such a strategy are regionally. 

Ahmed Kanna 
Anomalous Spaces in 'the Orientalist Dream City': An Unconventional Look at Dubai

In this paper, Kanna critiques the tendency among writers to shoehorn Dubai into universal histories of capital, globalization or modernity while downplaying or ignoring both the particularities of the city and the ways these particularities articulate with the universal history of capital. He makes the case that such a tendency is governed more by a wishful urge to orientalize the city rather than to seriously engage with its reality.
Ahmed Kanna is postdoctoral fellow in International Studies at the University of Iowa. He holds a PhD in anthropology from Harvard University (2006) and was an Aga Khan visiting fellow at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University (2006). His edited volume, 'The Superlative City: Dubai and the Urban Condition in the Twenty-First Century' is forthcoming in the fall. 

Anuradha Mathur 
Open Terrains
Anuradha Mathur, with her partner Dilip da Cunha, has focused her design practice for the past decade on cultural and ecological issues of contentious landscapes. Their investigations have taken them to diverse terrains including the Lower Mississippi, New York, Sundarbans, Rio Grande, and Bangalore. Anuradha is an architect and landscape architect. She is Associate Professor, School of Design, University of Pennsylvania. She has a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelors of Architecture from CEPT, Ahmedabad.
Anuradha is co-author with Dilip da Cunha of Mississippi Floods: Designing a Shifting Landscape (Yale University Press, 2001) that looks beyond objectifying the Mississippi as a river, and draws out a more dynamic and layered landscape that demands negotiation more than control. Mississippi Floods also took the form of a public exhibition that traveled extensively in the US and London. Their practice received the Young Architects Award for 2000 given by the Architectural League of New York. Their awarded projects are part of a publication by Princeton Architectural Press and the Architectural League titled Second Nature .
Mathur and da Cunha's most recent book, Deccan Traverses: the Making of Bangalore's Terrain (Delhi: Rupa & Co., 2006), was released in June 2006. It follows a public exhibition held in the Glass House of Lalbagh, Bangalore, in October 2004. The book and exhibition bring together a unique and extensive documentation of Bangalore's history and landscape agency, and is directed toward an innovative design strategy for Bangalore and its extended region. 

Sibel Zandi-Sayek
Public Works and the Public Good: Modernizing Urban Space in Ottoman Izmir
This talk examines the making of Izmir's monumental quay and modern harbor between 1869 and 1875--one of the first large-scale infrastructure projects within the Ottoman Empire. It focuses on the difficult and highly fraught process by which the scheme was implemented. In so doing, it reveals largely unknown aspects of Ottoman Izmir's political and cultural context, which transcends prevailing notions of 'Europe as modernizing agent' or 'the Ottoman state as passive actor'. Diverse actors--including government officials, property owners, local merchants, and the actual developers--competed to assert their priorities and interests over the waterfront. Moreover, the making of the quay shows how the provision of modern infrastructure was bound up with rival definitions of the public good. The prolonged debates over who constitutes the public of Izmir and what public good entails significantly shaped the architecture of the scheme. These debates extend our understanding of how the modernization of urban space can provide a locus around which the public sphere is constituted. 
Sibel Zandi-Sayek is Assistant Professor of Architectural History at the College of William and Mary. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Architecture from the Middle East Technical University, Master's degrees in Architecture and City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. in Architectural History from the University of California, Berkeley. 
An interdisciplinary scholar, her interests range from nineteenth- and twentieth century architecture and urbanism in both Western and non-Western settings to critical investigations of notions of modernity, citizenship, and the public sphere as they inform the production of the built environment. Sibel has conducted extensive research on the multicultural environment of Mediterranean port cities (especially late Ottoman) and the politics of place and identity those settings have fostered. She has published articles on these topics and is currently writing a book that examines the conflicts over the reorganization of physical space in nineteenth-century Izmir/Smyrna at a time when the Ottoman Empire refashioned itself into a modern Islamic state. 

James L. Wescoat Jr. 
Searching for Water and Wisdom in the Indo-Islamic Garden 
The extraordinary waterworks of Indo-Islamic gardens - Sultanate, Mughal, Rajput, etc.-- have drawn widespread interest in international environmental design.   However, modern perspectives on historic water systems remain fragmented in ideas, methods, and conservation design practice.     Landscape research has also not adequately addressed expanding problems of water scarcity, pollution, and hazards in South Asia, or beyond.
This presentation explores the development of modern research on Indo-Islamic garden waterworks.   It reviews the shift from contextual, typological, and evidence-driven models to more unified hydrologic analogies (e.g., "following the water") and an emerging conservation design model.  
The conservation design model draws upon concepts of wisdom ( hikma ) to balance decisions about the conservation of water, waterworks, and water experience at historic sites.   It discusses how this approach is being pursued at the Nagaur Fort palace-garden complex in Rajasthan, which has a rich fabric of Mughal and Rajput garden waterworks and related arts--set within in an arid, urbanizing, and vulnerable environment.     This analysis points toward broader issues for transnational research on water in environmental design. 
James L. Wescoat Jr. is professor and head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.   His research and teaching deal with water in environmental design in South Asia and the US.   He has directed the Smithsonian Institution's Mughal Garden Project in Lahore; and worked on cultural landscape research projects in Agra, Gujarat, and Rajasthan.