Spring 2011 Abstracts & Bios

Lectures, Conferences & Events» Past Lectures & Events


Aziza Chaouni 
Re-territorializing the Global: Differential Approaches to Tourism in Morocco
For more than a decade, Morocco has actively placed tourism at the center of its national economy and has made it a privileged site for its foreign investors. Concurrently, the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism has clearly articulated two ambitious ten year plans: the Plan Azur (2001) and the Vision 2020 (2010). Led by two young and progressive ministers, the two plans differ greatly, each reflecting global trends in the tourism industry. The Plan Azur opts for an exterritorial approach that promotes six autonomous beach townswhereas Vision 2020 advocates for an inter-territorial approach with a more balanced distribution of tourism, a strong focus on ecotourism, local social development and R&D conducted with North American partner universities, namely Harvard GSD and the University of Toronto. This paper is interested in investigating these two plans with respect to their processes of territorialization of readily available global models for hospitality and to their responses to their geographic, cultural and political contexts. 
As such, the study of each plan’s rhetoric, strategies and architectural and urban productions will document the shifts in the underlying dynamics that characterize in situ processes of globalization, while revealing innovative modes of design practice in the Middle East.
Aziza Chaouni is founding principal of Bureau E.A.S.T. and assistant professor at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. She holds a Master of Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Chaouni’s personal research is focused both on developing world design issues and on methodologies to integrate architecture and landscape, and more particularly trough investigating the potential of green technologies in arid climates. At the University of Toronto, Chaouni leads an initiative with Professor Liat Margolis entitled the Out of Water project, identifying and assessing the performance of different methods to harness, treat and collect water in arid climates. Chaouni was awarded the Progressive Architecture award in 2007 for her research project, “Hybrid Urban Sutures: Filling the Gaps in the Medina of Fez”
Chaouni's office with partner Takako Tajima, Bureau E.A.S.T., has been recognized with top awards for both the Global and Regional Africa and the Middle East.

Arindam Dutta
Detranscendentalizing: [Secularism, Economy, Politics, Science]
The talk examines the validity of ‘secularism’ as a necessary basis for politics. A purely secular rationalism, it will be argued, would be as susceptible to systemic intolerance as the bugbear against which it is constructed, the theocratic state. A robust tolerance is possible only when grounded within limits – a paradox – a detranscendentalized conception of tolerance either disguises its theological fundament, as in the Christianized secularism of the West, or it tolerates nothing. The situation examined here is a territory that has been for three centuries at the frontlines of global capitalism, as the East India Company’s first governmental foothold in Asia to providing, today, the vaunted exemplum globally for microcredit-baiting of the poor: Bangladesh. Bengalis comprise one of the largest ethnic groups within Islam, second only to the Arabs. Speaking as much to this ‘capitalist periphery’ as the ‘Islamic periphery,’ the talk examines recent efforts by the Naya Krishi Andolan (New Agricultural Movement/Agitation) to establish connections with strands of the syncretic and esoteric Lalon Panthi sects in Kushtia district. The ‘turn’ to divinity by a secular organization involved in agrarian economic resistance and biodiversity struggles goes hand in hand with the Andolan’s interest in the politics of sovereignty, posed against the relentless reduction of Third World poor into economic client pools on the one hand, and against the cultural politics of the Bush-Obama War on Terror on the other. Focusing on architecture and music in the Bengal delta, the talk will address the entanglement between, in the Andolan’s mobilizational strategies, the (secular) aesthetics of enjoyment and the Lalon Panthi’s practices of devotional rapture.

Deeba Haider
Selling Brand Dubai
In an age of fierce global competition, overabundant information and visual stimuli and the increasing commodification of experiences and cultures, cities around the world have resorted to branding and marketing strategies to promote themselves in an environment saturated with choice. The goal ultimately, for each city is to attract and entice tourists, businesses and talent to visit, invest and create, thereby increasing the city's importance in the global economy. 
Since the late 1990s, through an extensive development of branding strategies, Dubai has managed to catapult itself onto the global consciousness. Its incredible economic success from 2000 to 2008 however, masked a darker underbelly and the high urban, socio-economic and cultural cost of their strategies. This presentation aims to explore how rooted branding strategies were in all aspects of Dubai's architectural, urban, social, cultural and economic development into a global city; what were perhaps driving factors behind these branding strategies; and their longer term effects on the emirate. This presentation will also examine how its neighboring city-states in the Gulf have adopted and altered similar plans in the hope of increasing Dubai's competition in the region and eclipsing some of its star power as it slowly revives from this economic downturn.
Deeba Haider is a consultant and writer specializing in urban and cultural issues. She is also the West Coast correspondent for Il Giornale dell'Architettura and associate editor of the newly formed International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA). Formerly, she worked as a real estate / management consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York City. She is currently based in Los Angeles. 

Kevin Low
Same Same But Different. The global trade in architecture 
The past two decades have seen tremendous socioeconomic and political development and change throughout Asia. Viewed retrospectively and with the benefit of gathering knowledge as to how free capital markets function, we are only now beginning to see that this change is less unique to our last twenty years than it is a result of the gathering force of the last hundred; a default outcome, one might say, of our unquestioned dependence on the way currency mechanics and modern economics subtly guides it all. The place of architecture in global trade and the general state of its condition in Asia is one of the many affected.
There is little to differentiate the underlying agendas and semantics of commodities and trade products of modern economics. The ubiquity of globalisation extends across services and products, from systems of government and international banking to hotel chains and telephone companies, coffee outlet brands and clothing to advertising and architecture. The sameness that dominates world culture is one of the significant markers of our time. This paper attempts to make the case that globalised architecture can only be critically informed when it rises above the current commodity it generally is. It will touch on the cosmopolitan cities of East Asia, being the region where the drastic contrast of global ubiquity with specific context is more keenly felt.
The paper will discuss commoditisation of the exclusive product and the nature of its desirability to East Asian cultures, and a certain confusion that is believed to exist regarding the differences between product branding and expertise of service. Lastly, it will reference the ways we think as architects, and identify the manner with which associative rather than inventive design has driven our current architectural condition globally, and in East Asia specifically.
Kevin Mark Low was born in Malaysia and educated in the United States, received degrees in architecture from the University of Oregon (1988), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1991). After ten years of work in a corporate firm in Kuala Lumpur, he established smallprojects in 2002, and has been in sole practice since. He has lectured in Asia, Oceania and Europe, and has been involved as a visiting critic in universities internationally. His work has been published in architectural editions of Interior Design (U.S.A.) and A+U (japan). He has contributed articles to architectural journals regionally and his recent book, smallprojects (oro group 2010) is currently being distributed in architectural bookstores internationally.

Benjamin Michaudel
Islamic Military Architecture in the Near East and Egypt at the Time of the Crusades
The researches undertaken since the middle of the 20th century on the medieval fortresses and citadels of the Near East propose, with the spreads of architectural archaeology and of a syncretic vision of the architectural influences between East and West, a more objective view than the one of the previous century about the importance of the fortifications of the Muslims in the development of the Eastern medieval military landscape, in particular under the Ayyubids and the Mamluks during the 12th and 13th centuries. These researches highlight two main theses that will be discussed here:   

  1. The first thesis suggests that the development of the Islamic fortifications at the time of the Crusades was not dependent on the Western military architecture built by the Crusaders, in terms of construction techniques and of defensive ingenuity, but that this Islamic military architecture got its fundamental principles from an Eastern architectural tradition mainly dating back to Antiquity.   
  2. The second thesis suggests that the Ayyubid and Mamluk fortifications represented the most accomplished examples of military architecture in the medieval world before the rise of the powder artillery during the 14th century. In other words, the fortifications built by the Muslims in the 13th century would have succeeded in competing with or even in surpassing those of the Crusaders in term of defensive ingenuity.

Benjamin Michaudel is an Arabist, Historian and Doctor in Islamic and Medieval Archaeology, specialist in military architecture at the time of the Crusades. Appointed as a researcher in Islamic and medieval archaeology at the French Institute of the Near East (Ifpo) in Damascus (Syria) between 2006 and 2010, he initiated and took the direction of two ongoing Syrian-French archaeological missions, respectively on the medieval settlements of Coastal Syria and on Saône/Sahyûn Castle, a key site for the study and understanding of the diffusion trends for the medieval construction techniques between East and West.  

Todd Reisz
The Global Architect in the Free Trade Age
Terms like ‘global architect’ and ‘free trade’ often make heads turn toward Dubai. It is a logical association considering: 1) Dubai has a century’s worth of success exploiting others’ global ambitions to sustain its existence; and 2) Dubai’s assertion as a trade hub is deeply rooted in the imagination of the ancient mare liberum. To make these tendencies manifest, Dubai has called upon the global architect more times than can be counted.
A bifocal survey of an historical global architect in Dubai alongside the log books of today’s global architects raises questions about the itinerant architect and to what degree he is necessary. 
Today the term ‘global architect’ is one that architects simultaneously seek to embrace and have to refuse. Which globalized architecture doesn’t make sentimental references to ‘local culture’? The result is architects with confused, if not hidden, motives. 
Finding once again heroism in the term ‘global architect’ might just be the way to save ourselves from it.
Todd Reisz is an architect and writer currently focusing on the cities of the Gulf region, from both historical and contemporary perspectives. He is the editor of Al Manakh 2: Gulf Continued, which analyzes recent developments of cities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain as these countries confront a new economic landscape. He is currently completing a book about the early modernization of Dubai and how that era's convictions determined the city we know today. Since 2010 he has been a blogging columnist for the Huffington Post on architecture and urbanism in the Gulf region.
Todd worked for five years with the architect Rem Koolhaas at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, where he led a series of research projects and studies, combining architectural thinking with cultural studies, technology, media and politics. He led the office's in-depth analysis of the rapid urbanization of the Gulf region. In 2007 he co-edited the book Al Manakh, a comprehensive analysis of urban development along the Arabian Coast. Prior to joining OMA, Todd was an urban planner for the New York City Housing Department and for the New York City 2012 Olympic Committee. He holds degrees in English literature and architecture from Yale University.