Religious Architecture and Islamic Cultures

VU Course ID: R302
Curriculum: 26 units
Prerequisites: None
Developer: Prof. Nasser Rabbat
Provider: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Recordable: Yes

Course Description

This course introduces the history of Islamic cultures through their most vibrant material signs: the religious architecture that spans fourteen centuries and three continents -- Asia, Africa and Europe. The course presents Islamic architecture both as a historical tradition and a cultural catalyst that influenced and was influenced by the civilizations with which it came in contact. We’ll explore the sacred, commemorative, pious and educational architecture in the Islamic world from the beginning of Islam as a religious revolution in 7th-century Arabia to its evolution as a global power straddling Asia, Africa and Europe in the medieval period to a world religion professed by one-sixth of humanity in the present.

The course reviews a number of representative examples (mosques, madrasas, mausolea, etc.) from various periods and locations, and analyzes their architectural, urban and stylistic characteristics in conjunction with their historical, political and intellectual environments. It also uses films and discussions to elucidate the artistic/cultural varieties and historical developments of this architectural vision within both the Islamic and the larger, universal and cross-cultural contexts. ~ Leave yourself notes in the cloud!

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