Islamic Architecture and its Legacy to the West

This course will explore Islamic architecture and the city. Because it is impossible to cover fourteen centuries of Islamic civilization in five sessions, we will focus on a select series of buildings from different dynasties, historic periods, and regions to grasp their meaning, form, function, and evolution. We will examine what Islamic art inherited from ancient civilizations and how Islamic art is still present in our lives today.

Islam was born in the desert (Hijaz, Arabian Peninsula) from nomadic tribes, yet in less than a century it became an urban civilization establishing handsome and functional cities with flourishing gardens. The Umayyad Caliphs built symbolic monuments in the Holy Land and founded superb palaces and ceremonial baths in the desert. Later, the power and glory of Muslim rulers was given public expression in a series of magnificent tombs. In some cases, the sultans developed “Cities for the Dead”. We shall study how two dynasties of slave origin held the sultanate power for 300 years and how patronage of monuments by women was significant.

Most important, the course will address the legacy of Islamic architecture to the west and the world. Spain was ruled by various Islamic dynasties from 710 AD to 1492 AD. Despite the so-called “Reconquest,” Moriscos and Mudéjares continued nourishing Spanish culture. During this time (1492-1614) Islamic art permeated the roots of Spanish art, music, and literature and continues to do so today.

Class Recordings:

Class 1 - February 5

Class 2 - February 12

Class 3 - February 19

Class 4 - February 26

Class 5 - March 5

Class 6 - March 12

Meets on: Fridays 1:00 to 3:00 pm
Starting: 2/5/2021
Sessions: 6
Class Size: 24
Teaching Style: Lecture with questions
Weekly Preparation: 2 hours
Group Leader Biography:

Maria Luisa F. Mansfield obtained her Ph.D. in Fine Arts and Middle East Studies (1988). She received her Licence ès-Lettres and Maîtrise (MA) from L’Université de Genève. A former Presidential intern at The American University in Cairo, Mansfield was Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture, Department of Design, Architecture and Fine Arts at the Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas, Venezuela, Assistant-consultant to BEEME International (Mosque es-Semara, Morocco), Consultant to ARQUIOBRA, C.A. for The Mosque of Shaykh Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz al-Ibrahim in Caracas, and a researcher and script writer for Cuadernos Lagoven, Venezuelan TV, as well as Associate Researcher at the Center for Urban Development Studies (GSD – Harvard University), Senior Researcher and Consultant to The Institute for International Urban Development, and Instructor at Harvard Extension School, Cambridge.