Symposium at Yale School of Architecture Examines Tension between Globalization and Local Culture in the Middle East

With a focus on the Middle East, a symposium at the Yale School of Architecture on April 4-5 will examine the competing forces of globalization and local culture in modern architectural practice.

With a focus on the Middle East, a symposium at the Yale School of Architecture on April 4-5 will examine the competing forces of globalization and local culture in modern architectural practice.

Architects, critics and scholars from around the world will meet at the School to discuss what symposium organizers Sandy Isenstadt, Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen and Kishwar Rizvi describe as “one of the most pressing issues facing architecture today,” the tension between global cultural and economic interests and the increasing demand for local cultural expression. Architects are faced with the challenge, on the one hand, to respond to calls for culturally relevant architectural forms from local residents and, on the other, to conform to standards and methods of construction that are ubiquitous throughout the world’s cities.

This peculiar dilemma of contemporary architects and urban planners reflects a worldwide historical shift from colonialism to postwar de-colonization and to the present postcolonial search for local identity. The symposium focuses on the Middle East because it has been at the crossroads of this historical, cultural transition, and because, perhaps more than any other region, it is a place where deep architectural traditions vie with rapid modernization.

At the symposium, titled “Local Sites of Global Practice: Modernism and the Middle East,” architects and scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds will present papers and debate issues in three panel sessions.

The symposium begins on Friday, 3:45 p.m., with a session on colonialism and the search for national identity. Presenters are Gulsum Baydar, Bilkent University, on the history of modernism in republican Turkey; Layla Diba, Bard College, on modern Iranian painting; Brian McLaren, University of Washington, on Italian colonial architecture in Libya; and Annabel Wharton, Duke University, on Jerusalem under the British mandate. Abbas Amanat, historian and Chairman of the Middle East Council at Yale’s Center for International and Area Studies, will respond.

At 6:30 p.m., Nezar al-Sayed, University of California, Berkeley, will deliver the keynote talk, “Manufacturing Heritage, Consuming Tradition.” Al-Sayed has written extensively on urban issues and on globalization and transnationalism in Europe and the Middle East. A reception will follow the talk.

The second panel session, on Saturday, 9:30 a.m., titled “Case Study: from Gaza to Beirut,” will open with a talk, “Israeli Architecture of Mass Immigration,” by Roy Kozlovsky, a doctoral student at Princeton. Alona Nitzan-Shiftan, the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, will discuss how the Israeli and Palestinian conflict is embodied in architecture. Susan Slyomovics, MIT, will examine productions and performances by Palestinians in Israel. The session will conclude with a presentation by Hashim Sarkis, Harvard University, on architectural projects in rural Lebanon. Keller Easterling, Yale School of Architecture, will respond.

The third session, “Local Sites of Global Practice: Postwar to the Present,” begins on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. Magnus Berhardsson, Hofstra University, will present a paper on modernization in Baghdad in the 1950s. Ijlal Muzaffar, an MIT doctoral student, will look at the modernization policies of Congrés International d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM) and their post-WWII impact on local cultures. Architectural historian Hasan Uddin Khan, co-author of two books on mosques and modernism and editor of the Islamic architecture journal Mimar, will look at recent important and controversial works in the Gulf States. Sibel Bozdogan, Harvard University, will discuss recent developments in Turkey. The session will conclude with a talk by Gwendolyn Wright, Columbia University: “Global Ambitions and Local Knowledge.” Alan Plattus, Yale School of Architecture, will respond.

The closing address, Saturday, 4:30 p.m., will be delivered by Arjun Appadurai, the William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of International Studies and Director of the Initiative on “Cities and Globalization” at Yale. Appadurai’s address, the School of Architecture’s third annual Roth Symonds Lecture, is titled “The Circulation of Forms.” Author of seminal essays on globalization, Appardurai will present his research on global violence, mega-cities and grassroots globalization. A closing reception will follow.

The symposium is sponsored by the Yale School of Architecture and the Yale History of Art Department. It is partially funded by the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund, Yale Center for International and Area Studies and the David W. Roth and Robert H. Symonds Memorial Lecture Fund.

All symposium events will take place in Hastings Hall in the School of Architecture Building, 180 York St. Limited seating requires prior registration. For more information and to register, call Jennifer Castellon at 203-432-2889.

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