Birth of a Profession
This research project examines the formalization of the architect as an independent and central professional figure in the Arab world in the first half of the twentieth century. The book focuses on the architectural profession’s trajectories in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Jordan. It does this through a historical reading and a close analysis of the different sites where these trajectories unfolded. These include Arab-led architectural associations, schools, publications, and congresses. This research is based on archival research conducted in archives and private collections in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.
The period that this research covers, encompassing World War II and the critical pre-war and post-war years, is considered a foundational period for the modern movement in architecture globally. However, its history is still predominantly written through the canon of Western experiences, expertise, and figures and is limited to architectural developments in Europe and the United States. Focusing on Arab architects and their debates, this book constitutes part of a growing scholarly demand for a global history of architecture in the twentieth century. It takes this critical period in the history of the Arab world—seeing the transition from colonial rule to post-colonial nation-building—as a window for understanding the relationship between architecture, colonialism, and nation-building in the twentieth century.
Hover Image: The coverage of the International Union of Architects (IUA) visit to Cairo in Majallat Al-Emara (‘Journal of Architecture’), 1949. The photographs feature Sir Patrick Abercrombie, the IUA’s first president, meeting with Egyptian architects Sayyid Karim, Ali Labib Gabr, and others. Source: Fine Arts Library Archives, Harvard University.
The project has been supported through two prestigious international fellowships: the 2021-2022 Aga Khan Postdoctoral Fellowship at the School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the 2022-2024 ETH Zürich Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) at ETH Zürich. A book manuscript is currently being prepared based on this project.
Symposium: The Profession’s Foundations: Architects and Architecture in the Modern Middle East. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 30 April 2022.
Symposium: The Profession’s Extensions: Architecture Beyond Architects in the Modern Middle East. Princeton University, 13-14 May 2022.