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Leading Islamic architecture scholar speaks at LAU

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Regional Fulbright scholar Dr. Sussan Babaie gave a talk entitled "Domestic Architecture and Cosmopolitanism: Cairo, Isfahan & Aleppo (17th and 18th centuries)," on May 6, at the Beirut campus.

May 12, 2010—

The Institute of Islamic Art and Architecture at LAU hosted a lecture titled “Domestic Architecture and Cosmopolitanism: Cairo, Isfahan & Aleppo (17th and 18th centuries)” by Dr. Sussan Babaie, on May 6, at the Beirut campus.

In her lecture, Babaie explored a specimen of domestic architecture in the Middle East built during the 17th and 18th centuries and presented her new approach to understanding the spread of stylistic features.

Considering how long-distance trade provided an important element in developing networks of cooperation and competition, Babaie’s talk traced the architectural evidence of cosmopolitanism in the 17th-century houses of the wealthy merchant families of Aleppo, Cairo and Isfahan.

She argued that it was the “taste” of cosmopolitan upper class in these cities that played a major role in developing stylistic similarities in these residences. The lecture was followed by question-and-answer session in which she discussed her novel approach with the attendees.

Babaie is a regional Fulbright scholar in Egypt and Syria, affiliated with the Ain Shams University in Egypt. She is working on a book about domestic architecture and cosmopolitanism in the Middle East. She has taught at the University of Michigan and Smith College, has been a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, and will be the Allianz visiting professor for Islamic studies at the University of Munich, in Germany.

Her research and teaching focuses on the history of Islamic architecture and urbanism during the period from the 16th through the 18th centuries, on the social implications of trans-regional visual cultures of Islam, and on the problems of history in contemporary art practices in the Middle East.

Her recent book, Isfahan and its Palaces: Statecraft, Shi’ism and the Architecture of Conviviality in Early Modern Iran (University of Edinburgh Press, 2008), was awarded the 2009 Middle East Studies Association’s Houshang Pourshariati Iranian Studies Book Award for the best book on an Iranian subject.

A number of practicing architects and designers attended the lecture, in addition to LAU architecture and interior design students, faculty and staff, as well as academics from other universities.


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